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Software Update Process
There's been a lot of questions about when we'll get the 2.1 upgrade (among other updates to our Android phones) -- Sprint Community member and Sprint employee halcyoncmdr wrote a great response to a forum post describing the process:
I also want to point out that Sprint doesn't directly update the devices, the manufacturer does the coding based on the OS and customized code.
So in the case of the Hero, HTC does all of the coding for the specific hardware (such as camera, cpu, gpu, etc. drivers) and then merges their Sense UI on top of it. After they develop a new build that fixes bugs in the call quality (for instance) it is sent to Sprint to test. If the build fails any test it is sent back to HTC to fix the issue. Only once the builds start to become more stable and likely to be released (known as a Release Candidate) will they begin to get a better idea on when it will be finalized and in a form that can be released. Once they get to stable builds and have a good idea on when the release may be the dates become more clear cut.
So for instance originally the update was slated for 1H2010, but was recently changed to a smaller timeframe with an expectation it will be available early 2Q2010. As the builds become more stable and show-stopping bugs are fixed the dates will become more finely tuned. Not all ofthese dates will be publically reported (because of how the Internet responds to update delays, even with unofficial rumored dates as evidenced all over the place, including on these forums).
This isn't specific to phones either, it is roughly the same setup for any electronic device or program. Everything goes through an Alpha - Beta - Release Candidate stage. Sometimes it is even more brokem down with Gama and Delta stages for example as well