Google to centralize Android development and sales

Google to centralize Android development and sales

Summary: According to a Wall Street Journal report, Google is going to radically shift how it works with its partners in developing and selling Android.

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One reason to unify Android? Too many shipping versions.

One reason to unify Android? Too many shipping versions.

For all its popularity, Android programming, sales, and marketing has been... chaotic. Every hardware vendor makes its own Android mix, which more often than not is based on an older version, and each company sales and markets their smartphones and tablets independently of each other. That may be changing now. According to a Wall Street Journal report, "Google is shifting its strategy for its Android mobile operating system, in a bid to create a united front with smartphone and tablet makers to take on rivals like Apple and prevent wireless carriers from controlling the devices."

Wall Street Journal reporter, Amir Efrati reports that "Google plans to give multiple mobile-device makers early access to new releases of Android and to sell those devices directly to consumers, said people familiar with the matter." In the past, Google would pick a single vendor to introduce major Android updates in lead devices, and then all the other vendors would follow. These devices were then, as now, sold to end-users through wireless carriers or retail outlets.

By the holiday season though, there were be as many as five manufacturers creating a portfolio of "Nexus" lead devices that include smartphones and tablets. While the old sales channels will still be there, Google will sell the gadgets directly to consumers in the U.S., Europe and Asia via its website. These will run on be running Google's next version of Android, Jelly Bean.

Google did not respond to a request for comments.

So who might these companies be? We don't know. At a guess, Motorola has to be in there. ASUS, HTC, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson would also seem like natural partners.

This news comes ahead of final approval for Google's acquisition of Motorola. Many people are speculating that Google is trying to centralize Android programming, sales, and marketing to reassure its partners that Google is going to use Motorola devices to compete with them.

While I certainly think that plays a role, I suspect other factors are involved as well. Android operating system fragmentation is a real problem. The core operating system is always the same, but there are too many shipping versions for end-users or independent software vendors (ISV)s to be happy.

Apple, Android's only real rival, on the other hand, offers a single, unified software stack. Users who buy an iPad or iPhone don't have to worry about it they'll get the newest update. Until Apple stops supporting their particular device, which Apple does do, they'll know that they'll get the latest and greatest version. By contrast, Android's newest shipping version, Ice Cream Sandwich, after first shipping seven months ago, is still on only 5% of Android devices.

Apple is also fighting with Google's Android partners in courtrooms around the world on various intellectual property (IP) issues. A united Android front could potentially, if nothing else, cut down on Google's partners' legal bills.

Put it all together and there are many reasons why a more united Android effort would make sense both for Google and its partners. So, while we don't for certain that is what Google will really be doing, this centralized development, marketing, and sales plan does make sense. If Google is to get this off the ground by the 2012 holiday season, we'll soon see if this indeed what Google has been working on.

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Topics: Security, Android, Apple, Google, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Smartphones

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22 comments
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  • another nail in the apple's coffin

    the impetuous advance of FOSS innovation will bear fruits soon.
    The Linux Geek
  • ...it's not going to work...

    ...with Android, there are too many parties and interests involved to get them all in line....
    TheCat123
    • why not?

      @TheCat123, What is to keep Google from reigning them in?
      bstringy
      • It's Open Source and a fine line Google walks

        If I were an Android distributor and

        Google had just purchased Motorola to compete with me

        left me hanging in courtrooms around the world

        put me in a position to pay Microsoft and Apple and others royalties for every unti sold

        and now wants to centrally control Android so everyone gets the same experience and I can't differentiate my product from the pack,

        I'd be thinking about whether I'd made a mistake in choosing Android and what my options are.

        When 99% of the market doesn't give a hoot about the technical specs of the hardware, the only way to differentiate (translate, achieve higher margins) is to make the user experience slightly different, better, whatever.

        Central Google control of Android distribution will further limit the choices hardware manufactures have in differentiation.

        Just like MS did to PC and Laptop vendors. It's a low margin business.
        Cynical99
  • Did anyone proofread this?

    Looks like a draft, but I like the story.
    bstringy
    • No, it sure doesn't look like anybody did.

      bstringy - my thoughts exactly. Grammar? We don't need no stinking grammar!
      sunworks
  • Yeah like Samsung, HTC, etc. want google to get inbetween themselves and

    their customers. That's terrible business for the oems.
    Johnny Vegas
    • well said

      Hardware manufacturers are between a rock and low margin sales.
      Cynical99
    • PC Redux... Goog needs to do to HTC & Samsung what MS did to Packard Bell

      They need to abjectly prohibit partners from shipping phones with modified UIs.

      Just like what Microsoft did, when they finally banned the abominable 'This is your virtual house' boot-shells from PCs and made everyone use the Win95 UI.

      The Droid vs Apple thing is PC vs Mac all over again - complete with hardware vendors on the 'PC' side making the same irritating & annoying mistakes (Boot shells, proprietary add-on bloatware, etc)...

      Of course, Apple has made the same mistakes they made with the original Mac - closed hardware, closed OS - but that's expected because it's their nature...
      dcacklam
  • Here's the Real Problem for OEM's

    I'm already not a Samsung or HTC customer, I'm Android customer. The same way I'm not really a Dell or HP customer, I'm a Windows customer. Hardware matters model to model not OEM to OEM. I compare the specs on each model and decide whether I want that phone or that laptop and the manufacture matters not at all. What I am locked into the the OS infrastructure.
    txscott
    • OS is Transparent

      It's applications and data structures.
      Alan Smithie
    • Funny you said you're not Samsung's customer...

      Because Samsung is aggressively trying to build its own ecosystem around Android. Trying to make you their customer, not Android.

      And who could blame them, Google's Andy Rubin in defense of Androids fragmentation would always defend the OEMs and carriers right to continue adding "value" to Android. The various skins like Sense, Blur, the crapware that Carriers bundle that cant be uninstalled, the fragmentation which was labeled as choice by fans, it is all good for the platform according to Andy, they all brought value to the platform. Is Google now flip-flopping?
      dave95.
    • This is the real problem, differentiation

      By choosing Android, the hardware manufacturers simply created a market of fungible goods, namely telephones and tablets that are largely indistinguishable from one another. It's a market where lowest price wins.

      Very difficult to convince a customer that one handset is better than another, or that one tablet is better when the user experience and software are all the same.

      Makes for one low margin hardware business, just like PC hardware.
      Cynical99
      • Think again

        You mean it would be difficult to differentiate between say the HTC one X and the galaxy s3? Look at the specs between the two phones and tell me that it's not differentiated. There are differences in screen sizes, keyboards, features, price points and that's all excellent. That's what choice is all about. And as a developer I find the talk about fragmentation laughable. It's not really difficult to create a single application that works across various devices. Sure you still have to test across devices, but for the most part it works just fine. of course it's easier to code to a single device, but I'll take the diversity of the Android ecosystem any day over the iOS locked down model.

        The real problem with fragmentation in Android is on the consumer side with the inability to get OS updates. That's the real frustration and this will fix the problem for the folks who are get the Nexus phones directly from Google. However this is just one step in the right direction. These phones also need to be sold through carriers with pure Google experience for their unfortunately vast majority of these people who still think they are getting a great deal saving $300 or so and paying $3000 or so in contracts.
        os2baba
      • Must disagree with some of your response, agree with other parts

        Disagree that Specs mean anything to the average end user - Since the vendors all use Android as their base OS, and must supply Android apps, the user experience is basically the same across the board. Since the average user doesn't have a clue what all those specs mean, specs are meaningless.

        Agree on the development issues, also agree that fragmentation is a major issue.

        The biggest issue is the low margins of a fungible product. Once they all look basically the same, act basically the same and the only difference noticeable to the consumer in the store is the screen size, low price wins with the consumer. That drives low hardware margins, just like Windows boxes.
        Cynical99
  • Did I miss something?

    "to reassure its partners that Google [b]is[/b]is going to use Motorola devices to compete with them."

    Did you say that Google is reassuring partners that Motorola will compete with them? I though you'd want to say, "to reassure its partners that Google [b]isn't[/b] going to use Motorola devices to compete with them."
    Cynical99
  • Still Linux

    No matter how fragmented it gets or doesn't get, it's still just another version of Linux... also fragmented to the same extent. Even those who swear by Apple know that ios is a version of Linux as well... What's so confusing about that?
    Semicrazee
    • RE: Still Linux

      No it's not. Both OS X and iOS have their roots in BSD.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • How about a review of R e p l i c a n t OS, Steven?

    It's the only truly open-source derivative of Android that I am aware of.

    P.S. Would also be interested if there are more out there.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • while we know don't for certain that is what Google will really be doing

    Google's motivation for centralizing (controling) distribution is driven by improving the revenue for Google on Android. If OEMs or carriers want control over smart phone and tablet OS offerings let them invest in developing their own OS. I'm suprised Google hasn't done this sooner. It should improve Android as well as Googles bottom line.
    poetjoe