Google aims for purity with Android Silver

Is the Android Silver initiative mostly a rebranding effort for existing Nexus smartphones, or is it something much more?

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3. Isn't this about Google trying again to take on Samsung and other Android device makers, and even carriers, that add so many apps and features to phones and without rolling out the latest version of Android on time?

Most analysts think so, although Google has been trying to protect pure Android for years by goading carriers and manufacturers to make upgrades to the latest versions of Android in a timely fashion.

More recently, Google has tried to upgrade its many services instead of its operating system in hopes that a delay in a new OS won't matter as much to end users. That approach still hasn't been totally successful, many analysts believe.

"With many different versions of Android out there, there is no consistency," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "Users can now go into a store and buy new phones with three or four different versions of Android. And how do you keep a market full of diverse Android OS phones up to date?

The single biggest reason enterprises resist going to Android is due to so many different versions of the OS on BYOD devices. Unified Android would definitely help in enterprise adoption."

4. Wait a minute. Is Android Silver really about unified Android?

Not by a long shot. If Silver is rolled out, it would only be a few phones at a time, reportedly, and there would still be a huge global market for the many low-cost Android phones being sold, many in undeveloped countries where low prices matter more. A particular Android version and add-on apps don't matter to many end users, although that might be an issue for an IT administrator faced with supporting so many different devices.

Strategy Analytics last month released a survey of 250-plus Galaxy S4 and S4 users which found they spent very little time using Samsung custom apps when compared to the time spent on just three Google apps.

The survey indicates what many customers already realize: It's easy to ignore third-party bloatware. You might not be able to remove the custom apps in some cases, which can leave a phone's interface cluttered and ugly, but it isn't clear that matters much to many smartphone users.

Having an updated OS might matter more than a bunch of bloatware, especially to get to Android versions that delete bugs and add vital security features.

Google clearly seems sensitive to that need, although, again, Android Silver wouldn't be attractive to much of the world that wants cheaper phones.

5. So, what vendors will want to make Android Silver phones?

Lenovo, which bought Motorola Mobility for nearly $3 billion from Google, would seem to be a candidate for U.S.-based smartphones with the Android Silver concept. That would give the former Google subsidiary an inroad in the high-end U.S. market, where more customers are willing to upgrade on a regular basis than in developing countries.

Many other smaller manufactures might also want to be part of Android Silver, if only to benefit from Google marketing and support. And having one phone in an entire manufacturer's line based on Android Silver might not be so difficult for some vendors.

"It is likely that most Android vendors will be forced to take Android Silver due to competitive pressure," said ABI analyst Nick Spencer. "Samsung is the only vendor with the power to resist, but I suspect they won't do so in the short term as they are pragmatic and opportunistic at heart."

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