Google, Android, Intel, AOSP: What?

With Android One, Google puts itself firmly back in the OS’ driving seat

Its Android One partnerships mean Google no longer has to put its eggs in one basket, and also make sure that local OEMs stick with Android as Google envisages it, not as handset makers and operators would have it. Google seems to have been increasingly trying to reduce others’ influence on the operating system — banning the customisation of Auto, TV, and Wear; wrestling Samsung over its Magazine UI; and gradually withdrawing its support for the AOSP version of Android.

Android One is just the next step in that progression. Google is using the lure of a turnkey mobile platform to get everyone else in the value chain to give up hope of tweaking Android for their own ends. While most handsets in developed markets use the GMS version of Android, which puts Google’s services front and centre, in the developing world AOSP — the original open source Android that can be forked and adapted at will — is far more prevalent. Google has been slowly allowing AOSP to wither and has now stepped in with Android One an alternative — an alternative that puts Android back under its control and its services back in users’ eyelines.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

I’d like to know how much of that is observation and speculation and how much is based on what Google has said to the writer behind-the-scenes.

How can I reconcile that with Google and Intel’s tablet reference design? Here’s that quote again:

Our friends at Google appreciate it too. “It’s exciting to see Intel bring their years of expertise in reference designs to Android in order provide high-quality Android tablets and speed up time-to-market for manufacturers,” said Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of Engineering for Android, Google. “The result of this program will be devices powered by Intel’s technologies, together with an operating system that is up-to-date and includes popular apps from Google such as Chrome, Maps and YouTube, offering a great overall user experience.”

As far as I know, the Android that Intel supplies to its Chinese partners is based on AOSP and a fork to run on Intel CPUs.

So what’s going on here?

Has Intel taken over a fork of AOSP with Google’s blessing because Intel is including Google Services?

Or has Google created an Android-for-Intel version of Android?

I’d sure like to know!

And what does this mean for Chinese tablet makers adding things such as tUI, the iFive skin, Teclast split-screening, and Rockchip MultiWindow? Will they be going away as word is passed from Google to Intel to the Chinese to cease and desist?

I have to say I’d hate to see that. I’m not fan of the iOS-like skins of the Chinese, but how long do we have to wait for Google to get off its ass to offer spilt-screening or MultiWindow? Does Apple have to do it in iOS first before Google just copies it?

And what good does such OS standardization do, anyway? Users can just put another launcher and other customizations. Or will Google crack down on those too?

And what about Xiaomi, which uses Android AOSP for its phones and the MiPad?

There’s a collision ahead in the future.

5 Comments

Filed under Android, Google

5 responses to “Google, Android, Intel, AOSP: What?

  1. You’re confusing the AOSP, the open source Android system, with Google’s closed source version of Android (which is the so called “stock Android”). The AOSP, the software that everyone can download from the dev page, is deader than disco. If you fire it up in the SDK emulator for instance prepare yourself to go back to Froyo in lots of apps. The search box, the music and video player, the image gallery, the camera, the messaging app, the launcher… All of that has been abandoned in AOSP and replaced by Google’s own apps. There was a piece by Ars Technica some time ago that goes to great lengths about it.

    The idea of Android One is basically selling cheap phones with stock Android. That means telling every hardware seller to stop messing with the AOSP apps (custom launchers are the most egregious example) and sell hardware with Google apps instead.

  2. Android One is a better-late-than-never project that has the potential to provide users with a satisfactory smartphone experience in the low-end category (~$100). The fact that both SoC vendors and manufacturers of that category are willing to jump in the project, shows that proper hardware-OS integration and flawless update provision are necessary ingredients for the further growth of that market segment.

    SoC vendors (especially chinese) are willing to have their products tested and verified from Google, since the last will provide manufacturers with hardware profiles and useful technical guidance based on these SoCs ,making them more appealing and offloading a huge amount of effort and costs. The same benefits, of course, stands for the manufacturers which, additionally, won’t be obliged to keep developing custom ROMs or adapting their existing to Google Android updates.

    The bottom line is that Google is offering a more complete set of support to other industry players (by allocating more in-house resources) and in turn gains more control in Android ecosystem.

    What should be clarified though is that Android One project can return significant benefits to all players in unsaturated, large markets with low income consumers. That’s why Google develops Google Android Silver and, probably, Nexus. It wants to retain high deployment percentages to all markets and all market segments. I am on hold for more such news…

  3. E.T.

    Aren’t there limitations on Google Apps and services in China? And don’t these limitations drive OEM versions?

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