With respect to the carriers, Google is in a very similar position as Apple. If Apple can do it, there's no reason that Google can't do it. And if Apple can get the carriers to do it, Google could if they tried, too.
Now, I understand there are a few key differences between Apple and Google, two of the most important being that Google isn't the manufacturer and, related to that, that different manufacturers add their own look and feel to Android. But that's a strong indicator that Google needs to change their methodology, to help decouple the OS from the UI. Apparently they've already started this, by bumping OS features into Google Play (which may also be a poor choice), but this only means they're leaving older versions out in the cold.
I use GMail, have an android phone, and use a number of other services that google provides, but they desperately need to get out of the web mindset. Deployment plans that work for a web page don't really work well for an OS, having products in multi-year beta modes, and abruptly dropping support for services are all very upsetting practices that don't work if you want to be integral to people's daily lives.