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Why Acer a500 ICS update's distribution strategy is a failure

Acer released the Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS, aka 4.0) update on Apr 27th 2012, for its A50x line of tablets. The owners were ecstatic about the news. Nevertheless, the process of deployment for Acer and the installation for the end-users was nothing short of a disastrous saga.

For a couple of days, users saw one of four cases.
  1. Downloads not start at all - while the update app claiming "Network coverage is currently poor: Please move to a better location with better network coverage to continue." (which is appalling for users sitting right next to their routers)
  2. Downloads started but not finish (the progress bar waited, as if eternally, until the download window finally disappeared).
  3. Downloads finished 100% but not kick off update installer (this and the next one is probably the most heart-breaking).
  4. Update installer failing claiming "Invalid update file"

A lucky few could get the whole thing complete without breaking. However, it wasn't the case for the majority of the users.

The failure of this distribution strategy could be summarised into one major point. The release payload was centrally distributed and was made available only though the update app. This means, the ~400MB download must be served to each user (and the repeat requests due to failed attempts) by Acer's own servers. Add to that the "primitive" update application handle the download process. For what ever reason, this doesnot sound rational. Even though there may be geographically load balanced CDNs, The fact that the download process is interwoven with update program itself is beckoning Murphy's law.

Presumably, the user reaction's were ranging from dissappointment to wide spread despise. As with any update release, Acer should have planned better. Torrent distributions, and http downloads are much more standard. They could have made an encrypted file available for download sans the controlled delivery mechanism. The upload tool could decrypt the user downloaded file, and install it. May be in future, Acer will not repeat this mistake. Well atleast it released updates pronto, unlike some other industry leaders (read Samsung)

update: I went through all four cases above and finally got ICS on my Tablet. Thank you Acer! and take my advice distribute your updates in the "open" way, in future.

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