I don’t think this will surprise anyone at this point, giving Motorola’s recent history with locked bootloaders, but it’s still a big disappointment.

The bootloader of the new Motorola Atrix HD will be not only locked, but also signed with an encryption key, which makes it all but impossible for the ROM developers to go around it. Steve Kondik himself, the founder of CyanogenMod, has recently said that Motorola’s locked bootloaders are the worst, at least from the point of view of someone who wants to put a custom ROM on their phones.

Maybe the locked bootloader wouldn’t upset people as much as it does, if Motorola would ensure that its phones would receive upgrades for two years. But Moto hasn’t exactly had a very good track record with upgrades either (not that any Android manufacturer has an “excellent” track record). Android OEMs are all pretty poor at upgrades because they don’t understand that customer loyalty comes from ongoing support. Manufacturers shouldn’t just run away from the customer as soon as they make the sale. The fact that they are neither supporting their customers, nor allowing them to use custom ROMs is what really makes people angry.

Motorola says they are locking bootloaders to “meet requirements”, and that their ultimate goal is to provide a way to unlock their devices to those who wish to do so. We don’t know what exactly they mean by that. It could be either an unlocking tool like what HTC uses or it could be another “Developer Edition”, which really doesn’t solve anything, especially if they are only sold unsubsidized.

The Motorola Atrix HD is supposed to be launched on July 15th on AT&T, and it does seem like a very nice looking phone, with a Kevlar body, high-end hardware, water-resistant coating, and a price that’s hard to beat, at $99. I just wish they didn’t make it so hard for enthusiast Android users like us to buy it.

I’ve been hoping for a change of course once Google starts integrating Motorola, but even if Google does anything about this, we probably won’t see an impact until next year.