During its big RAZR event this afternoon, Motorola mentioned that separate “Developer Editions” of each of its three new handsets would be available for power users interested in tinkering. Just what are the implications of this sort of move to the development community?
Motorola seriously dragged its feet when it came to implementing its long-promised bootloader unlock program. And then, when it did, we found out that existing phones wouldn’t be supported. With the announcement of these Developer Editions today, it’s becoming clear that none of Motorola’s primary lineup will be unlockable, either, unless you spring for one of these special versions.
The problem is with subsidies. If you buy a regular smartphone, on-contract, you’re (mostly) free to forgo your warranty, throw caution to the wind, and get busy with some custom ROMs. With Motorola now, only Developer Editions will be afforded that luxury, and unless a carrier starts selling them on-contract (and there’s no sign of that happening just yet), it could scare a lot of devs away from Motorola hardware, not willing to make the big upfront investment. Yes, we realize that costs can balance-out in the end, but American attitudes towards subsidies are what they are.
It’s probably too soon to get into the heavy criticism here, as we still need to see how these models are going to be released, but we’ve got a bad feeling about it.