Google has a problem. This problem is that they’ve pretty much last control of Android. HTC Sense is almost an Operating System of its own now, and Amazon has their own forked version of Android, without Google Apps, meaning Google don’t make a penny out of that.
I recently read a post by Charlie Kindel, who says Google Will Abandon Android. While I don’t agree with the title, I agree with almost everything in the post. Let’s explore what I feel about what he says, and see if I can take it further.
The basic gist of the post is that Google has lost control of Android, and that the Android Market’s name change to Google Play goes a lot deeper than everyone thinks. Google Play, he says, will be the new branding of Android devices from Google, and in particular their tablet, which will simply be called the ‘Google Play’. I agree with this. Google has realised that consumers think Android (and the Nexus name) is a geeky name. Think about it for a second – in the Galaxy Nexus ad, Android is barely mentioned – twice in fact, and only in passing. In addition, the Android logo, Andy, is not seen at all. I think this is an indication Google are preparing to move away from explicit Android branding. The devices that Google will make will still run Android, and you or I will know it runs Android – but normal consumers won’t., in the same way most consumers don’t know if the official name with iOS is iOS – they just think of it as ‘what the iPhone has’.
So what will these new devices be called? Well – I suspect (and from the looks of things, so does Charlie Kindel) that the name change of the Android Market to Google Play goes a lot lot lot deeper. Charlie says Google’s upcoming tablet will be called the Google Play. As I said before, I agree with this. But what will Google’s phones be called? I said that they’ll move away from the Nexus brand, at least for normal consumers. I think the phones will be called something along the lines of Google Play. I’m not quite sure how they’ll do it – I don’t think it’ll be Google Play 1, Google Plsay 2, Google Play 3 etc. But I’m pretty confident that this new name goes a lot deeper than people think. Google seems to have three pillars now – Search, Plus, and Play.
The best thing about Google doing this is that they will create a concise brand of products. I would like them to do a low end (say a 3.2 inch screen, 800mhz processor, 512mb RAM), a mid end (3.7 inch screen, 1.0ghz dual core processor, 768mb RAM) and a high end (4.3 inch screen, 1,5ghz dual core processor, 1gb RAM). Then comes the Nexus. Now I said before Google will move away from the Nexus brand, at least for normal consumers. I think the Nexus brand should be kept, but marketed at power users and/or developers of apps or ROMs. This would be super high-end (think One X specs) and would come would an already-unlocked bootloader, and possibly some form of recovery installed. This would ONLY be purchasable through an online store that WSJ reported on a few weeks back. The other devices (low-end, mid-end, high-end) would all be sold on the Store, but would be sold by other carriers as well, and have stock Android installed. The manufacturer for these products would be Motorola, while the Nexus manufacturer would be the same as it is now, with OEMs each submitting a product to Google, then Google choosing who they’d like to work with.
OK, so now for the second part of this post. AOSP. You probably know what it stands for – Android Open Source Project. If you don’t know what open source is, it’s basically where the source code (the code that makes up the program) is open to anyone. This is what Android’s code is.
The problem is, Google doesn’t seem to be using this to their advantage. You probably know that HTC has their own ‘version’ of Android, called Sense – which isn’t open source. Imagine if Google had gone to HTC when Sense was first being developed for the HTC Hero, all the way back in 2009, and said “Hey, HTC! If we pay you a bit, can we have bits of Sense we like and put them into AOSP?” This would have had two advantages: 1. Over time, Sense would have gotten smaller and smaller, meaning that by now, Q2 2012, Sense would be almost AOSP, with a some new icons, maybe some apps, and a few widgets from HTC. Stuff like ImageSense (which is fantastic, may I add) would have been in AOSP, making AOSP better overall. How good would that’ve been? 2. HTC and Google would have had a much closer relationship – HTC’s hardware is fantastic; for me, the best of the market, but their software is mediocre.
So, in conclusion, Android branding is slowly disappearing. Is this good or bad? Only time will tell, but I’d say it’s good. More cohesive for consumers, which is ultimately what Android needs to aim at, as they’re the biggest userbase.