When the Motorola Droid launched this month everyone was amazed that a company so down on its luck was able to put together a well-designed phone running a powerful, "brand new" OS. The whole package - hardware, software, and marketing - seemed flawless. In fact, phones running Android 1.5 now look hopelessly outdated and with 2.0's gesture, CDMA, and search support you'd wonder why handset manufacturers like HTC, LG, Kyocera, and Samsung are using 1.5 at all.
The reasons have more to do with Google than any decision on the carriers' part. In fact, according to a source close to the handset business, Google's Android team directly assisted Motorola and Verizon in building the Droid's software from the ground up and is currently assisting another, unknown, handset maker in Korea to create a finely-tuned hardware and software combination. Most important, however, is that this is sort of assistance most manufacturers do not receive and, in the end, they are dinged for running an "older" version of Android.