Today, we learned from Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman (via Engadget) that a new version of Ouya will be released every year. The $99 Android console is set to be shipped next month and will contain technical specifications that are perfectly acceptable for an Android device at this time. Still, some may feel upset about needing to upgrade Ouya after a year of ownership. I understand these feelings, but I also believe this is not as big of a deal as some are making it out to be.
We can’t compare the Ouya’s upgrade cycle to that of a traditional console such as the Xbox or PlayStation. Even though Ouya is a home console, it’s still built upon Android – a mobile operating system. Android specifications can’t be held to the same standard as something Sony or Microsoft would do. No other company can produce a device that plays the games or operating system as Sony and Microsoft’s consoles. At the same time, Sony and Microsoft can’t get away with releasing more than one new home console at a time. They must make sure their consoles are future-proof for around 10 years. That’s part of the reason why consoles tend to cost hundreds of dollars at launch. With Android, time moves much more quickly. This is because competition in the mobile space is fierce. Any company can produce a device with Android as the operating system. This results in dozens of Android devices being released in a single year. Manufacturers can’t afford to go years without releasing a new device. They have to get their products in front of people as soon as possible.
We also have to consider the cell phone carriers. They need to have the latest and greatest devices ready for their customers as often as possible. The way the mobile business is run, only those with a constant presence stand a chance at being successful. That’s why Samsung is at the top of its game (and sells a ton of different Android devices).
We can’t forget about developers either. A lot of mobile games aren’t backed by big publishers with millions of dollars. Many developers can’t afford to spend years researching future technology for a single game. If they did, mobile games would cost way more than $0.99 due to the time the developer spent on research and development.
The bottom line is Android moves fast. Think about it for a second. The first Android device, the G1 (or HTC Dream), was released in in 2008. At that time, the PS3 was about two years old. The G1 had a 3.2-inch 320×480 resolution screen. It had 192MB of RAM, a 528MHz processor and a 1150 mAh battery. Four years later, we have quad-core phones packing 2GB of RAM, full HD displays and cellular radios that can pull down data speeds faster than your home internet connection. Meanwhile, the crucial PS3 specs haven’t changed. They can’t change.
Ouya’s yearly upgrade cycle is the byproduct of Android. Ouya has no choice but to conform to the advancements in mobile technology. If it doesn’t, people would complain the Ouya isn’t strong enough and the games will suffer. Besides, Ouya is only $99. If anyone finds a reason to upgrade their $500 iPad every year, they have no right to complain about Ouya.