Google Manages Its Empire - and Tries to Nudge Carriers and Vendors

Carl Weinschenk

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is planning some interesting moves that potentially will nudge wireless carriers and vendors a bit to the side.

Google, according to eWeek's report on the Journal's story, will sell Android devices directly to customers. It also is moving to open manufacturing of the next Nexus to multiple vendors. Those items, juxtaposed against the still wafting fallout from its purchase of Motorola Mobility, could push the industry towards a different telecommunications and vendor model. There are two elements to the bottom line: Google is massive and it is willing to do things differently.

Inviting multiple vendors to build the next Nexus provides some symmetry to the hue and cry over Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility. The thinking is that Google may put its new hardware arm ahead of other vendors for assorted Android goodies. Letting multiple vendors battle it out to create the best Nexus seems a natural counterpoint.

Some commentary playing off the WSJ piece is that having multiple vendors for the same device will help rein in fragmentation, one of the big threats to the Android operating system initiative. This is how Gizmodo put it:

If true, it could solve many of the persistent problems in the Android ecosystem. Google desperately needs to reign in the platform. Developers often complain that there are too many different devices running too many different versions of Android. This move could help standardize the experience for users across devices.

In a related comment, Business Insider noted that uptake of the most recent version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0 to those among us on diets), has not been widely adopted. Having a number of vendors focus on the same device could get things moving in the right direction:

This is a much-needed step for Android. As things stand now, it takes manufacturers months and months to get their phones up to date with the newest version of Android. Carriers don't make the process any easier, subjecting software updates to lengthy tests to make sure they don't harm the network.

Bypassing the carriers also is a big deal, and seems to be something that every vendor would like to do. It isn't so easy, however. TechNewsWorld points out that Google has tried this before, with less than stellar results. Much of what happens in business depends on who "owns" - or, in less controlling terminology, has the closest relationship with - the consumer. The entity that is front and center with the customer - be it the cable company, the wired or wireless carrier or the vendor - has what in essence is a major home field advantage. In the U.S., it usually is the carrier or service provider. Google clearly wants that to change.

In the bigger picture, the sense is that the powerhouse that is Google is figuring out the best ways to exert its power. Though the company is undeniably ascendant, there always seems to be a disconnectedness between the various things it is doing. Bypassing carriers and having vendors duke it out to make its hardware seem to be steps toward removing at least some of the haze.

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