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back to article How Google's Android Silver could become 'Wintel for phones'

In the 1990s, Intel and Microsoft dominated the "open" PC standard – and it appears that Google now wants to do the same for its Android system, via its Silver programme. Silver has yet to be announced, but industry sources have confirmed the details to us. While the comparison between Google today and Wintel then isn’t …

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Devil

No Problem

We'll be OK. Remember their motto is "Do No Evil".

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Re: No Problem

"Don't be evil"

Big difference.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_be_evil

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No Problem

No. It is "Don't be evil".

Sorry, a pet peeve of mine.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No Problem

All they need is lots of Viruses and Malware for Android and it will be just like the Wintel of old. Oh, wait...

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Re: No Problem

Evil is as evil does

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Re: No Problem

Define Evil, it's a question of semantics.

Hitler / Stalin / Pol Pot all probably thought they were doing the right thing.

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JDX
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Re: No Problem

I'd love to hear exactly what part of giving away free OS which companies have used to make $billions is evil.

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Anonymous Coward

There's nothing stopping HTC or Samsung from developing their own Android branch.Google is throwing the dice on developing a tune the others will dance to. The others can always write their own if financially viable.

I have an HTC One and love it. It's running a Cyanogen release and works like a dream.

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Google control the Play store. So I think Google have them by the balls. Even Samsung.

Well that's not totally true. But it would take a lot of work to get the same variety of apps out there - even for an Android fork. I don't know what tools Amazon have made available - but they've only got 20% of Android apps on there. After several years and very decent market share. And I'm not sure any of the mobile manufacturers are up to getting the software, store and developer stuff all sorted at the same time.

Look at what's happened to Microsoft and Blackberry. And I think a large component of that is lack of apps. Both the phone OSes are nice.

The place you can do well despite a lack of apps, is at the bottom end. The sub £150 smartphones. But there's almost no profit to be had there. All the cash is at the top end. People paying £30 a month plus for their calls (and hire-purchase on the handset), those people want apps. The latest and shiniest apps.

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>There's nothing stopping HTC or Samsung from developing their own Android branch.

There isn't a hard barrier preventing Samsung et al forking Android, but there are some hurdles:

1. The Google Play app store. If you fork Android, you can't use the Google app store.

2. Google Play Services libraries. Again, you can't use these if you fork Android. They are Google's propriety code, for things like location and in-app purchases. Google have been actively persuading 3rd party app developers to use these proprietary libraries.

3. If you fork Android you can't use the Gmail Client, Google Translate, Google Calendar and Google Maps apps, amongst others. You might note that these are the very apps that Samsung has its own equivalents for - hence the apparent duplication of functionality on Galaxy devices.

4. If a hardware vendor releases a device with an Android fork, Google prohibit it from also releasing a Google Android device. i.e, hardware makers can't hedge their bets in this regard, or dip a toe in a forked pool.

The above points indicate why Samsung have duplicate apps, and why Amazon had to reach out to a obscure manufacturer for their forked Android tablets.

Android hardware makers could cooperate on making a fork, but that wouldn't give them an advantage other each other, either.

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Anonymous Coward

Errrr? But????

Isn't that a walled garden? Well at least a privet gedged garden.

Go fork Android and s far as Google are converned, you are a pariah. They don't care about any loss of revenue from not letting these forks use the Play Store.

Different layout of the playing field but still a walled garden in my book.

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No, but it might put Google in their place (if all the hardware manufacturers participate). Of course, corporate politics and the "tragedy of the commons" being as they are, this is very doubtful.

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Anonymous Coward

So just to clarify,,,

Google currently get criticised for update times (even though their Nexus phones are the first to get the updates, and it's actually the manufacturers and carriers at fault), yet when they try and do something about it, that's wrong too...

OK then....

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Re: So just to clarify,,,

Does this piece criticise Google?

I read it more as a warning. There are big pros to having one company set the standard. You get interoperability, a drop in costs, simplicity, a chance of believable roadmaps.

There are also some pretty big possible cons. The risk of predatory monopoly, and the loss of interesting innovation being the two biggies. Also the fact that you're totally reliant on one company, who might cock everything up.

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Re: So just to clarify,,,

"...a chance of believable roadmaps."

Um...tell that to Apple.

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Re: So just to clarify,,,

Where have Apple's roadmaps turned out to have been a lie? For what Apple has announced, that is, not for what rumors say they're going to do that they later don't?

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Re: So just to clarify,,,

Quick updates is just part of the bigger picture.

As I understand, the base firmware (which includes the kernel, HAL and such) also includes all the baseband software. That has to be certified by various regulators before it can be released. Since Google only releases Nexus in a very few markets (US/EU?), certification for them can be relatively quick. Not so for other OEMs who are global players. If I "import" a Nexus device for local use I'm technically breaking the local law since the device has not been certified by the local regulator.

The other concerns from many corners are that Android has been sold as being Open Source/anyone can contribute/rising tide raises all boats/foster innovation and (at least the spirit of) that undertaking has been substantially eroded.

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Re: So just to clarify,,,

The certification is for the phone, not for the standalone software or hardware. It is just paperwork: multiple presentations of the one set of tests conducted by the phone manufacturer. If you import a device then you ask the manufacturer for their test pack and munge it into the format expected by the local regulator.

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It should be noted...

...a part from HTC, no other vendor actually improved on stock Android.

Add operator pressure, awful software bundles, and typically no updates within phone's lifetime, and Silver starts looking like a real good deal.

Apart from HTC, again, but it didn't pay off to them...

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Re: It should be noted...

"And you get to walk round with the free Google dick in your arse at all times...:

If you have GApps (Play Store, Gmail, etc.) you've got that already. Silver won't change that.

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Re: It should be noted...

And you get to walk round with the free Google dick in your arse at all times,

As opposed to Apple's giant boner, or Microsoft giving you the email-inspection shafting and not even having the courtesy to give you a reach-around?

And you pay good money for those options.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It should be noted...

"Microsoft giving you the email-inspection shafting and not even having the courtesy to give you a reach-around"

Microsoft don't inspect your email normally. Only Google do that all the time - and target adverts at you based on the content...

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Re: It should be noted...

Microsoft don't inspect your email normally. Only Google do that all the time - and target adverts at you based on the content...

Woo, so some algorithm spots the word "baling twine" and I spend the next two weeks getting Amazon adverts for baling twine via Google's Adwords partners. This is a problem?

So much more invasive than someone manually poring over your emails. Seriously, if you think they aren't all at the Big Data game, you're blind. Google are just up front and honest about it, and seem to get all the bad press and smear campaigns, too.

If you want to worry about Google's advertbots analyzing keywords, then do also worry about Microsoft, Apple, Valve, Oracle, RIM, Amazon, Yahoo, in fact just about any company with any kind of online presence and probably most of those that still exist without one.

Your data is worth money. Business is about money. Microsoft. Apple, Oracle, RIM, Valve, Amazon, Yahoo, Facebook... all businesses. All with access to masses of customer and other user data. All with access to a resource that can positively impact their bottom line. Do the math.

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HTC is not the target

While HTC maybe be a casualty, Google's real target are Nokia and Amazon who are forking android and selling their own services through it.

I think Google will be happy as long as the phone uses the Google services for things like apps, emails and browsing. It is after all primarily an advertising company

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This is evolution 101.

This always happens as technology advances. When the first cars where being made, there were tens of thousands of companies in Britain alone making cars, engines, gearboxes, seats, bodies, custom paint jobs, and the rest. Today we're reduced to a handful of global giants. The same happened in pharma, it happened a bit in banking post-2008, and now it's happening in mobiles. I daresay Chromecast is eating all the competing TV dongles too.

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Silver-certified handsets for the wealthy (fighting it out with Apple),

Cyanogenmod-certified handsets for the techie. Nokia can probably pick-up the remainder (poor people and non-conformists need phones too!).

Sounds OK to me, particularly the part that promises death to the Android overlays.

Not hard to imagine it all going catastrophically wrong, though.

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Anonymous Coward

Manufacturer (Or vendor) specific skins?

You mean the crap I ripped off almost every phone I have ever owned? If the stuff is REALLY any good, then why not offer it as an add-on that people will flock to get.

They will flock , wont they? After all, Its not REALLY crap. that's just my imagination.

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Nice article.

However, this isn't the 90's and what Google will end up with is another variant of their Nexus line. Some will buy it while the rest of the world + dog will continue to buy what they see in the mob store of their choice. If carriers don't pick these things up, then they won't sell. Period. The introduction of Silver and the theories stated here forget the deep relation that mob carriers have with manufacturers. These guys want their value add software on the phones to tie customers to their services for long periods of time. Introducing a clean Google version of software that is already Google, but without the carrier bits is going to turn them off (the carriers), leaving this one for sale on the Google store only.

Not to mention, Google is becoming less and less popular as people become aware of how much of their daily lives they are sucking into their marketing machine. I can't see the public welcoming a pure Google experience with open arms at this point in the game.

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I'm not an Android expert: How difficult for Google to create a package that lets you wipe your bloated carrier OS and install Silver nice and clean? I'd love to get rid of multiple crappy HTC/Sprint apps. Would it be that easy for the carrier to disable your ability to do this?

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As long as it is optional. The tablet I have has a nice (though I quickly note OPTIONAL and freely available to anyone in the Play Store) Android folder/file browser. Not all supplied apps need to be horrid... :)

Personally I think those dreadful apps that suppliers install are to bait and switch, data glean after the sale and give you reason to want an "upgrade" path away from them. :P

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carriers got too greedy

24 month contracts are now the norm

The nexus line represented a real option for those of us that use WiFi more than data+voice. Suddenly everything is cheaper when you buy the hardware and the "service" separately.

I wonder... how soon will it be before we have blanket WiFi access/similar alternative and no longer NEED a mobile phone company to connect?

I'm hoping Google keep on evolving and make some waves re ISP/VOIP

The money I've wasted on contracts with unused minutes just to get a nice phone over the years...

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Sony like Samsung?

Sony's Android changes are quite minimal and usually add instead of duplicate. If Google were to get stroppy about e.g. the Walkman or Album apps or their launcher or widgets it would be a shame.

Samsung Android changes resemble some cross between a mobile operating system and a horrific kitchen sink.

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Re: Sony like Samsung?

I can't comment on Sony's software, having not played with any of their kit in a while. But I can comment on Samsung.

My friend has a Galaxy Note II, on my advice. A brilliant piece of kit... but...

Oh the software, oh the horror, the pain, the duplication... erk!

I believe I saw on a review that there were 247 options to choose from. The menu is huge. And has many sub-menus. It took me 3 hours to set the thing up (there's no way my mate could have done it). I admit it's my first 'Droid in a couple of years, but all I was doing was syching to the cloud Exchange server and downloading his photos. And going through page, after page, of menus. With crap defaults. Wonderful geek toy though.

Anyway, my real complaint is that not only have Samsung duplicated all of Google's software, but they're no duplicating their own! In their last update, they took away his program for making sketches on photos (the reason I recoommended the damn thing to him). Bastards! I hate updates that remove software. So I was called in to try and fix it.

It's OK though. They took away the software that allows photos to be exported to the sketch app. But they have 2 other apps, that do similar things. It's just it takes about 5 clicks to get into one, and 7 or 8 for the other!

Kudos to them for bringing back the stylus though. Shame their idea of innovation seems to be to ship every feature currently in R&D - then hope for the best.

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Is it just me or does "Silver Standard" kind of sound like the lower quality option?

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Anonymous Coward

"Is it just me or does "Silver Standard" kind of sound like the lower quality option?"

They should have gone for silver-gilt.

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IR

Built-in upgrade name. Like credit cards used to have. Next will be gold, then platinum, then diamond, then blue(?!), then something really weird.

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Coat

"the lower quality option?"

Are you trying to gilt-trip them?

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It leaves gold for nexus devices

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Isn't there a risk that someone can get in their first, though? If Nokia next year go: "Hey, here's our Android Gold" device, or Amazon release an "Android Diamond range of tablets", what's to stop them?

(Not that I think they would, just an amusing thought).

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Who needs Android anyway?

Sure, if you're in 'corporate drone' mode and forced to use what the man gives you, or you haven't a clue and just buy what the sales droid tells you, then Android (or the half eaten fruit thing) is likely to be your lot.

OTOH, this isn't 1993. There's far more scope for diversity in the ecosystem today, if people want it. Conformity to Google's way is really only an issue to those who are striving to make a living in the mass market. For those willing/wanting to serve niche markets you can still be talking about thousands, even hundreds of thousands of users, and an archtecture that is wide open to being able to scratch their itch. And allow them that smug glow of satisfaction in knowing that they are not part of the Goopleopoly. [sorry].

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Re: Who needs Android anyway?

So what non-Apple non-Android option are you trying to push?

Windows Phone and Blackberry are the ultimate "corporate drone" products, so it can't be one of them. Is there anything else that has a share of more than 0.1% of the market??

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Anonymous Coward

misreading history ?

If Intel had had its way we would all be using Itanium systems it was AMD's x86-64 bit chip which won that battle.

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Re: misreading history ?

That battle was almost entirely server-side, as Intel never got the Itanuim down below workstation-level pricing.

Besides, it was Intel's battle to lose. Y'know the x86 part of x86-64? Intel owns that. They lost that battle, but would have gone on to win the war either way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: misreading history ?

"That battle was almost entirely server-side"

Not really.

Itanium was marketed, by Intel etc, as "industry standard 64bit computing". Intel had repeatedly told the world that x86-64 was not going to happen as it was simply not possible.

Then AMD made AMD64, and the world quickly realised that IA64 was going to be yet another of Intel's failed attempts to succeed outside the world of legacy x86.

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Re: misreading history ?

was not going to happen as it was simply not possible.

I'm no chip designer, but I'd have figured anybody with an ounce of sense could have figured out this was marketing bullshit to promote their expensive new IA64 chips.

But yes, AMD64, and the rest is history.

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How is silver different to stock Android?

i thought Android manufacturers and carriers currently had their own overlays or builds on Android, which was one of the so called benefits to them. This just seems to be Google saying don't bother with your customisations, make your Androids plain vanilla like nexus and pay us some money for the privilege? I thought they could do that if they wanted anyway.

CONFUSED as to how Silver will be any different to stock Android, or can manufacturers not currently roll out stock Android?

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You've got it the wrong way around

It's "Use stock without any overlay changes and Google will pay some of your marketing costs"

So not only do you spend less on R&D to create an (almost always) trashy interface overlay that most people dislike, you get some extra cash.

Bad for the companies who were making a good overlay as they now have a hard choice to make, but good for everyone else as there is a direct incentive not to screw around with the interface.

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Re: How is silver different to stock Android?

Google will be offering the OEM design "guidelines" and there's the ~$1bn marketing push earmarked for Google Silver devices. Silver devices will get in-store kiosks (Genius Bar?) and direct support features (a la Amazon's Mayday?). A pretty good Faustian bargain to make if you're a niche OEM trying to get your presence/volumes up. If you're an established brand, you've just acquired a whole lot more competition supported by Google's marketing budget.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How is silver different to stock Android?

A true carrier/OEM gets the marketing funds anyway. The others get what they think are funds towards marketing for accepting Googles guidelines.

Following the guidelines might help or hinder consumers and manufactures, but the incentives are usually just repositioning of existing funds/resources.

A bit like how you can get a 50% discount after the price has doubled twice over... or in this case, some money up front, for surrendering any possible app sales on your own brands app store.

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