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back to article Google forges a Silver bullet for Android, aims it at Samsung's heart

The rumours are true: Google is working on a new brand called Silver to seize back control of the Android platform. Details of the thing have been corroborated by multiple sources – and it looks like a declaration of war on Samsung and wannabe top-tier gadget manufacturers. Along the same lines as its Nexus range, Google will …

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So can we expect a load of WinPho 8 Sammys etc?

Maybe some good will come of it.

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I miss the days, when Samsung and htc both offered basically the same hardware with either Android, WinMo or WP installed. Now that WP is free and Google are trying to clamp down on the market, we might see those days again, probably WP, Tizen and Android as choices. Although I expect the WP model will probably not look as stylish as the Tizen model. ;-)

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Happy

Although I expect the WP model will probably not look as stylish as the Tizen model. ;-)

Nah. Samsung won't need to do that. You can tell it's Tizen when your eyes are shut...

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Anonymous Coward

"Although I expect the WP model will probably not look as stylish as the Tizen model. ;-)"

But at least it will probably be faster, more stable and far more secure....

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Anonymous Coward

RIP Samsung.

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God I'm old

Every time I see WP, I think "Word Perfect."

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While a lot of this sounds bad from a competition perspective.....

...manufacturers and operators have only themselves to blame. Vanilla android works very nicely, most of the "customisations" and UI tweaks that people like HTC and Samsung (and also, don't forget, individual network operators) are adding are implemented badly - annoying and gimmicky at best, battery/storage sapping at worst. Additionally, as mentioned in the article, the customisations need to be tweaked and tested with every new release which slows getting them out of the door. Google will try to sell this as an attempt to make android "cleaner" and a lot of people will swallow this viewpoint - even though (this being Google) it's blatantly a piece of dick swinging aimed at getting control of the platform and the harvested user data back.

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Re: While a lot of this sounds bad from a competition perspective.....

To be fair to Google, I suspect it's both. Obviously they want all that lovely data and control - and they must be alarmed by the number of forks and Samsung trying to replicate all their apps. But also they should be really worried about malware. Maybe it won't happen, but I think there's a huge risk that some headline-grabbing outbreak of nasty will sweep through Android, like a hot knife through XP, before SP1. Microsoft are still reaping the PR damage they gained from things like Melissa and the I Love You bug.

I wonder if Google have been quietly trying to get the manufacturers to cooperate on updates for the last while. And this is the response.

One of the major problems the manufacturers have is how crap they are at cooperating. And writing software... I suspect this is why Google are going this route. It also means they'll struggle to tell Google to get stuffed, because they're always more worried about each other. They failed to cooperate on mobile payments, Symbian, keeping MS out in the Pocket PC days.

It does make me wonder though. Why didn't Google keep Motorola? They only sold it a couple of months ago. And now they're making a play to control hardware, software and updating. Maybe they think that the manufacturers will bend over and take it for Silver, but owning Motorola as well would have been just too much?

It's a shame both sides can't lose. Google are an enormous, increasingly worrying, global-data-hoover. But the manufacturers have never really given a crap about their customers. They'd always rather miss off a feature to keep a network happy, or fill their products with un-usable crapware that they then never bother to update. I mean why issue security patches to your customers, when you can just sell them a shiny new handset?

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Absolutely

I have a Galaxy SII just like my daughter. The difference is that mine is tied to a different operator.

My phone is running 4.1.2, hers is still on 2.x something. Mine has had a system update twice in two years, hers has had none.

"The handhelds must run Google's flavour of Android – the open-source-ish OS it bought in 2005 – rather than customised, bloatware-ridden versions cooked up by some hardware makers."

That in itself is going to be the beginning of the end for customized versions. Everyone knows about the latest functions made available in the latest version of Android. Most people look at their phone and can only dream about the day it will finally trickle down to them. It is nothing short of infuriating to know that your hardware CAN support it, but it's your operator that is not.

Operators are not going to get any pity on this front. Not that they get much anyways. They've been milking us for long enough.

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Re: Absolutely

But the carriers have little financial incentive to continually push out updates/upgrades to the Android OS.

Why? Because they would much rather sell you a new phone every year or two, as opposed to you keeping your current phone, and having the OS updated for many years.

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Re: Absolutely

ItsNotMe,

I don't mind the manufacturers not updating the software. I think they should (Apple manage OK), but I can understand that they don't. However:

1. There is absolutely no fucking excuse for not issuing security patches. Particularly as they're written by someone else. And double particularly now they're pushing mobile payments on their phones. And in fact, patches in general. If they can't manage to make that work with the bloatware they shove on the handsets, then they need to get better software teams, or stopping filling their phones with crap.

2. Not updating the software also doesn't wash when they so frequently issue new models on out-of-date versions. Google have been givning them more notice of their software devlopment for at least a couple of years now. If Cyanogen can get their latest version out in a couple of weeks, the manufacturers have no excuse.

Now Samsung have the Galaxy 5 linked to PayPal and pay-by-bonk I hope they get sued to buggery if they fail to issue patches in a timely manner.

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Re: Absolutely

To be honest the Sammy stuff in my Note is ok. The bugs I see are in the stock Google mail app, and are still there in the latest, latest version. Also the newest, newest version of Android doesn't get me anything new that I want. On the contrary, it's the forced updates to Play services that you cannot deny or roll-back that are FKing over my phone and also killing the battery. Perhaps a pure Sammy Tizen phone would suit me better?

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Re: Absolutely

Not me. I am a new android user since late december. I use a galaxy note 3 on ATT with android 4.3.

I know nothing of the next version of android other than it exists.

My phone works perfectly fine now other than bloatware from BOTH google and samsung and I suppose Att too. Id love to get rid of all google services as I do not and will not use them(same for samsung). They just clutter up things. Im constantly hitting some button on the screen when in the task closing app that fires up google search or samsung S voice. If I want google search I open firefox and run a search.

Id appreciate back ported security patches but dont force me to upgrade for some new feature I dont care about. Dont break what is working. Things are fragile enough as it is.

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Re: Absolutely

"1. There is absolutely no fucking excuse for not issuing security patches. "

Since those patches are to fix a manufacturing defect, that ought to be covered by the warranty.

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Re: Absolutely

"I have a Galaxy SII just like my daughter. "

Well, the Galaxy doesn't look much like a human, so I assume your daughter looks like a phone?

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Re: Absolutely

"But the carriers have little financial incentive to continually push out updates/upgrades to the Android OS."

I think the carriers are fast becoming irrelevant, thanks to phones like the Motorola G, Nexus 5 and Nokia 520. We're (slowly) getting to the point where most people simply buy the phone outright, and then get the best SIM only contract (or pre pay deal) they can.

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Re: Absolutely

@Pascal Monett

100% agree. The stuff HTC and Samsung add on are nothing but bloat. the nexus lines are the best imo just now. Hopefully this will allow more like them.

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Re: While a lot of this sounds bad from a competition perspective.....

To be fair, although vanilla Android is nice, Samsung's UI seems fine too, and it's as much a matter of opinion or what you're used to. Vanilla Android does lack a lot of things (e.g., video calling, didn't have a notepad/text editor for years) which although you can easily get an application for, I can see manufacturers wanting to add their own.

Let's not forget things like Google trying to get rid of SD cards - some customisations are definitely a good thing. (A shame - the idea of "Silver" sounds promising to me, but if they're all lacking sd cards with too small internal storage, I'm not interested.)

It does mean the releases lag core Android, but does this mean people wait longer for any given feature? A Touchwiz user has to wait longer to get a new feature added to core Android, but a Nexus user may have to wait longer for a new feature that Samsung add as standard.

Samsung have a lot more phones to test than Google when it comes to updates - but if Google switch to a model where there are lots of devices under the "Silver" brand, they've then got to test all of those devices (Nexus users may be happy being beta testers for the latest Android version, but this won't work so well on a wider set of consumers...)

It's annoying when network operators block updates of phones. Arguably they shouldn't have that control at all, though given that buggy updates can cause havoc for *other* users, as happened when an iphone update was pushed out, I can see their point. Ideally people should vote with their wallets - if my network didn't allow updates through, I'd go elsewhere.

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Dear god noooo

What the hell are they doing? This may be good for google, but it's likely to be rubbish for consumers as it drives away other manufacturers from the premium segment. One of the reasons I switched to Android from iOS was the much wider range of phones on offer - want a big screen? There's a phone for that. Want an SD card slot and removable battery? Yup, there's a phone for that. Want a cheaper phone that does the job almost as well? Yup, there's a bunch of them.

In the long term this can only reduce the number of manufacturers and variety of handsets. If I only wanted a small number of handset choices, I'd have stayed with iOS!!

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Re: Dear god noooo

Having been caught out twice by hardware being dead-ended by the manufacturer and having to resort to the likes of Cyanogen to get security and feature updates, I sort of welcome it.

It is also one of the reasons that I buy unlocked phones, with no carrier crud. The up-front price is a bit higher, but what updates are made available, I get quicker. That said, the carrier locked SGS3 my employer provides me has been rooted and is running Cyanogen to get it up to KitKat - the official update over the carrier only arrived a few weeks ago, so I might drop an original ROM back on it.

For my private phone, I have a Nokia Lumia 1020 running 8.1 officially, provided from Microsoft...

Silver might get me to give Android another chance - I couldn't have a Nexus as a company phone, because it wasn't available carrier subsidised...

Are Microsoft and Google switching roles? Is Google becoming the big-bad corporate entity and Microsoft the one that plays fair? There's a turn up for the books.

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Re: Dear god noooo

"Is Google becoming the big-bad corporate entity and Microsoft the one that plays fair?"

Welcome to 2014!

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Definition of closed:

mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android-silver.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git

fatal: Authentication failed

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Re: Is Google becoming the big-bad corporate entity and Microsoft the one that plays fair?

Let me reassure you : Google is simply becoming as bad as Microsoft, in its journey to become worse than Microsoft.

The only reason Microsoft is where it is is because before smartphones, there was only the PC for getting mail and going to the Web.

Now there is phones and phablets and the PC is going back to being used only by content creators and professionals, so Microsoft is on its way out and Google is taking its place.

The king is dead, long live the king !

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Re: Dear god noooo

Enough hyperventilation. The only way Google will "[drive] away other manufacturers from the premium segment" is by offering a product that more people want to buy. That is something where Samsung, in particular but not alone, has a lot of experience and success. Google is not the epitome of evil and in the cell phone industry is a latecomer and relative pipsqueak. It is likely to find a niche, but whether at a profit is uncertain and it is unlikely they can dominate.

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Re: What the hell are they doing?

So far Apple has been happy to restrict its anti-competitive legal action mostly to Samsung - maybe this is a cunning plan to align multiple manufacturers / resellers in a concerted attack against iThings.

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Re: Is Google becoming the big-bad corporate entity and Microsoft the one that plays fair?

"Microsoft is on its way out"

No, just a bit late to the party. Microsoft have a fully integrated top top to bottom suite all using the same kernel, and with some of the best tools and supporting applications. And are the only vendor with a fully featured touch / gesture enabled platform across all tiers. They won't be disappearing any time soon...

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Undaunted

"Today they must be weighing their options – and the daunting cost of creating a joint competing brand to Google's Silver"

Seems to me that with Firefox, Tizen, Sailfish and Ubuntu (and indeed BB), there's a whole bag full of nearly-market ready mobile operating systems out there. Those that can offer Android compatibility manage to avoid the "no-apps, no sale" hurdle, and even if Google puts a walled garden round the Play store, if the software's the same there's nothing to stop developers selling via more than one market place.

If Google go down that route, then they might find that Samsung, HTC or whoever's "Tizen Privacy phone" attracts a lot of attention, and Google cook their own goose. I can't believe that my personal data is worth sufficient that they could gold plate "Silver" to the point where I'd be willing to be locked in a walled garden. If I wanted that, I'd buy an iPhone, and laugh at Google's security and privacy issues.

Is this the ultimate "me too" - Google want to be Apple? Sorry Larry, you're no Steve Jobs.

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Re: Undaunted

And don't forget Sammy and htc are already WP8 partners, even if they have been neglecting it of late, which they now get for free.

Google might be shooting itself in the foot, or it might bring some semblance of order to the market. Fragmentation is a big problem at the moment - especially when it comes to getting security updates, waiting 18 months for a spring from 3.1 to 3.4 is one thing, but 18 months with no security updates? People would crucify Microsoft if they didn't patch Windows for 18 months after a zero day exploit hat been found.

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Re: Undaunted

Don't forget Jolla.

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Re: Undaunted

Sailfish is Jolla's OS iirc.

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Re: Undaunted

"And don't forget Sammy and htc are already WP8 partners, even if they have been neglecting it of late, which they now get for free."

And how a manufacturer can differentiate their offerings using WP8?

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Re: Undaunted

They shouldn't want to. Just deal with making the best hardware. With the all the possible options. (Two types of physical keyboard / sdcard slots / Reasonable battery life / nice headphone amp / fancy camera). Loads of things you can do all in hardware. Just making sure it is well made and has good call quality seems to be difficult for anybody other than Motorola / Nokia (With the odd HTC that is quite good).

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Stop

Re: Undaunted

"They shouldn't want to. Just deal with making the best hardware. With the all the possible options."

Right, looking at the pace of what hardware that WP is able to support, the manufacturers would seem like they were making a race of snails...it was well know fact that Nokia had to wait for Microsoft to release some tech because the good people of Redmond are fast in producing code (not). Nokia in the meantime changed a bit the look and feel of their release of WP, go figure.

"good call quality seems to be difficult for anybody other than Motorola / Nokia"

Nothing to do with how the cellphone companies handle the voice in 4G and how the specifications were made...

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Foolish move for Google, this will provide all the struggling mobile operating systems with a route back into the game. Executives at Microsoft, Blackberry, Jolla and what remains of Nokia must be feeling *very* optimistic now.

Maybe Samsung knew this, and that is why they finally launched a Tizen mobile ?

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The time for Tizen has come, then.

Samsung has been preparing for that, as have Nokia (with the X series) and Amazon (for the Kindle). Come in Sailfish, Tizen, CyanogenMod, FirefoxOS, and fight. The premium over Google ? less spying.

Google has already lost, thanks to Snowden and NSA.

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Re: The time for Tizen has come, then.

A Blackphone looks more and more tempting every day.

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Re: The time for Tizen has come, then.

Google has already lost, thanks to Snowden and NSA.

I don't believe you.

It seems to me that most people simply don't care. Plus Apple, MS and Google are all US based - who are the top 3 smartphone OS vendors.

Also there's another problem. Microsoft's mobile phone OS has been pretty good for several years now. And it can't get out of mid-single figures marketshare. And because of that can't get enough apps. And because of the lack of apps, can't grow marketshare easily.

And quite a lot of that marketshare may have been nicked from the free-falling Blackberry as well.

It's hard to break into the smartphone market now. It's much more of an established market than 5, or even 2, years ago. And I don't think it's possible to just wade in and grab a big chunk of sales. Even for Samsung who could try and transition to Tizen and say to customers, 'but you've got the same apps'. That might work at the almost zero-profit low end, but on the high value 100% profit phones? I don't believe it for a second.

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Re: The time for Tizen has come, then.

"Even for Samsung who could try and transition to Tizen and say to customers, 'but you've got the same apps'."

Bada didnt happened a to long ago, but looks like almost everyone forgot it no? And the sales were not bad either. But who will gone burn money a second time just that Samsung can play a new OS again? Tell that to former Bada phones owners. I'm tired of the all Nokia affair now, but they had the thing, MeeGo, their loyal customers would wait for the apps to show up now matter it would take. But in the end, they treated that fan base like shite, like they did for so many times, releasing some phones over and over jusr with a different shell. You know, I start to think that the whole Elop operation happened because the Nokians allowed it. They just wanted the money and move on.

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Yay

The android OS is MUCH better without the modifications handset maker do. But I hope they can still make custom camera apps because androids stock one aint great.

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If this is not just an Orlowskasm

Samsung has Tizen ready now in case they ever want to part company with Google. Nokia/Microsoft have Meego if they want an OS with better reviews than the iPhone. Most of the other manufacturers have been working with (and sometime distributed) Maemo/Moblin. If they want something more Androidish, they can license CyanogenMod. There are plenty of other choices like Jolla's Sailfish, Firefox OS and Ubuntu Touch.

The big selling point of free software is that if one maintainer goes in a direction people do not like then there will be a fork of three that goes in a better direction.

PS: Why is Android landfill? Nokia/Microsoft sell phones at the bottom end of the market at a substantial loss. If anything deserves the name, it should be landfill Surface.

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Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

I think you mean open source software. Windows Phone 8 is also free, but very much controlled by Microsoft and you can't fork it, if you don't like the direction they are going.

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Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

PS: Why is Android landfill? Nokia/Microsoft sell phones at the bottom end of the market at a substantial loss.

I think this may be a bit unfair now. But it's a nice phrase, and it was definitely true before. Cheap Android phones were almost universally slow, and horrible to use. A few were OK, some were truly un-usable (fit for nout but landfill). Windows Phone was much less of a resource-hog, and could maintain a pretty decent speed on worse hardware. Plus it doesn't multi-taks as much, so craply programed apps couldn't run the phone into the ground, unlike Android.

I think things have changed because Google have worked on efficiency, and there are some really good cheap SOC's now. It looks like the reason Nokia went Android is because MS only approve a limited subset of chips, and so cheap Win Pho can now be outcompteted by cheap Android running on lower-cost silicon.

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Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

> PS: Why is Android landfill? Nokia/Microsoft sell phones at the bottom end of the market at a substantial loss. If anything deserves the name, it should be landfill Surface.

Android isn't landfill, but a large proportion of Android phones are that cheap it's easier and cheaper to go buy a new one and send your existing one to the dump if you hit any problems with it. It's nothing to do with the quality of the OS or (lack of) profit margins on the phone, it's simply saying that Android created and captured the market for "disposable" smart phones, which still makes up a significant amount of their user base.

You may not like surface, but if you'd spent £900 on one, I doubt you'd be chucking if for a brand new one at your cost if the battery went a bit iffy.

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Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

Thing is my tablet (Motorola Xoom) which works flawlessly with the Google Play Services that is part of the rom and works also quite well (But not as well) with all of them up to version 3.2.x needs to be replaced for the sole reason that Google force feeds version 4 which is completely unoptimised for my tablet (It lags to hell the second that is installed everything on it). It works better with the play store and play services firewalled even with it trying to update constantly. Everything it adds is precisely stuff I have no interest in or that works less well (or tries to trick me into joining Google - or track where I am going even though I have actively removed Google Now / Google Talk). For what I use it for it works fine. (I am really against Google being able to decide at some point in the future to break my device like this which is why I won't get another).

The other option is just to switch back to the last AOSP Xoom Rom and use Amazon. (Basically all of my paid apps are with Amazon anyway because I trust them more).

(I have a set of apps that all work wonderfully but hardly any of them are up to date. Probably some have security issues but I like Youtube that doesn't sign in and Google maps v6).

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Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

Maemo was Nokia's. Moblin was Intel's. Meego was an amalgamation of the two. This was forked into the Mer project, which now forms the basis of the Sailfish OS. Meego has never had '...better reviews than the iPhone.', at least not in the way that you are insinuating.

The major flaw of 'free' software (if it's GPL'ed, it's not free) is the potential for a high level of fragmentation that can occurs because everyone is pulling in differing directions.

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Don't Google already design and sell premium Android phones/tablets? So isn't this essentially the same... which hasn't exactly hurt Samsung so far! Unless they block OEMs from using Android, which doesn't appear to be the idea.

Anyone?

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: JDX

My understanding is that, yes, it's an extension of the Nexus idea - just this time, Google really means it.

C.

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"Don't Google already design and sell premium Android phones/tablets?"

Not as such. The Nexus devices were more "reference" designs than an intention to take on the high end market where the OEMs were slugging it out. Nexus 5 is without doubt a damn good phone, but it isn't slugging it out with the S5, iPhone 5S, HTC One etc. Where the Nexus brand has been pitched is at sensible, rational, cost conscious consumers, where Google evidently want to take their hardware brand is into the profitable, sunlit uplands of the premium phone sector, where "rational", "sensible" and "cost conscious" are just words in a marketing dweeb's bad dream.

I suspect that the experience with Nexus and Motorola has made Google think "Jeez, this smartphone making is just assembly of other people's IC and screens, with distribution and marketing on top. We can do all that, and in fact we can pay somebody else to do the assembly, at whatever passes for minimum wage in China!"

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Yes, Silver is much broader, it's the creation of a new branded premium Android platform, rather than one-off reference designs.

Silver phones are assured updates, etc. Pretty much an invitation to either play nice, or fork off.

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Law

"this time, Google really means it"

Dunno why, but that actually made me chuckle evilly.

They were also running out of numbers on the Nexus line for phones...

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