Google to broaden Nexus to multiple partners
Reports indicate that the company will work with as many as five OEMs in future, to boost Nexus sales and allay fears about Motorola
Published: 16 May, 2012
Google has been taking a new level of interest in its own-branded Nexus handset strategy recently and is now reported to be extending the portfolio to multiple partners, in effect creating an 'inner circle' of OEMs which would receive early access to Android updates.
After a disastrous attempt to disrupt the traditional handset distribution model by bypassing carriers to sell the original Nexus, Google pulled back, launching one or two handsets a year, mainly as showcases for new OS versions and to court developers. However, the most recent model, the Samsung-made Galaxy Nexus, has been pushed more aggressively to operators and gained high profile by Google device standards, and now the strategy is to be ratcheted up again.
Google recently indicated that it would revive some of its direct-to-consumer channels for Nexus, creating a dedicated web site, and now it is said to be planning a far wider range of products. Instead of working with one lead partner at a time - HTC for the original Nexus, then mainly Samsung - it plans to open the Nexus brand to a wider range of suppliers. In return for using the Google label and user interface, they will get early access to new operating system releases, which will also give them a headstart in creating new models under their own names.
Such an approach would kill any remaining belief that Android is open source in the purest sense, or that all its partners are equal, bringing back memories of the fumbled launch of the Honeycomb tablet release. That was only initially shared with an inner circle of vendors, going against open source principles. Google justified that by saying it did not want poor quality designs to mar its new platform, and a similar two-tier approach for future Android iterations would certainly help it control the user experience more effectively.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Google's new Nexus inner circle could include "as many as five" partners, which would have the added benefit of keeping major OEMs loyal with special favors, and calming their fears of conflicts of interest with its Motorola acquisition. The WSJ reports that the new strategy will be seen with the launch of Android 5.0, or Jelly Bean, which will feature on a selection of Nexus handsets and tablets shortly after its release. These will be sold via Google's web site and some unnamed retail partners. It is not clear whether carriers will be sidelined, since Sprint and Verizon are currently important distributors for the Galaxy Nexus.
Google will certainly hope that working closely with its key vendors will increase their commitment to Android, and allow it to reassert control over the user experience while pushing some of its new distribution models. A broader base of Nexus devices could help seed the market more quickly with new Android releases - which remain slow to gain penetration beyond the Nexus family - and address some of the dissatisfaction with the operating system's erratic updates policies.
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