Until very recently, Google’s Nexus line and Google Play edition devices have been “pure” Android, running mostly code directly out of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). With the launch of Android 4.4 KitKat and the Nexus 5, we began to see Google’s version of Android emerge thanks to the likes of the Google Dialer and Google Now Launcher. These applications launched a Google Experience for Nexus devices, laying the framework for how Google envisions their version of Android. Now, new design rumors have appeared that clearly show Google wants to put their own experience on top of Android, similar to what HTC is doing with Sense or what Samsung is doing with TouchWiz.
With the Android Open Source Project, hardware and software partners from around the world collaboratively work on Android’s open source code. This code is then made available for hardware partners to use as they see fit. They can choose to work with Google and use Google Play Services, or they can go their own way like Nokia or Amazon.
Going the Google route means you’re going to use Google’s services, but you’re free to use your own services too. OEMs then customize Android to their own liking, promoting their own services and creating their own unique experience – and ultimately reaping all of the benefits while they build customer relationships on top of Google’s handiwork. Samsung is probably the worst offender.
This is where the problem begins. I won’t even get into the fragmentation of applications and services issue that splits and segregates users around the Android platform because of this methodology. More importantly, Google is devoted to promoting their software experience by leveraging their array of cloud services. Up until now, Android has been Google’s platform for doing so. However, it seems we’re beginning to see a transition where Google is acting just like other OEMs and creating their own experience on top of Android.
This is where those Android Silver rumors come into play I believe. Google needs to demonstrate how beneficial the entire Google Experience can be for users in a big way so that they continue to buy into the ecosystem. Google has to provide a robust enough out of box experience to convince handset makers that customers want the full Google package. The more customers that want to experience Android the Google way equates to more hardware sales – something handset makers can get behind. For Android Silver to succeed, the Google Experience needs to differ greatly from Sense, TouchWiz, and other OEM UIs.
As with all rumors this size, it’s good to note that not all of these design implementations are guaranteed to make it into a final public release. At this time, Android Police is reporting that Google is working on breaking search out of it’s shell, having a revamped Recents menu, a new Notification shade, a drastically changed Home Screen launcher experience, and even Widgets could see a major usage change. If these rumors hold true, we could be on the midst of a very defining announcement in the near future. Not only will Google be pushing the full Google Experience, but they could just be using Android Silver to do it.
Maybe the first Google Experience device will launch at Google IO in June on a brand new HTC manufactured tablet? In the meantime, let us know what you think about Google’s new direction in the comments.