Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is shaking up the mobile industry with its new operating system Android L, but the tech giant could be falling back to its old and faithful hardware as other plans for device upgrades may now be uncertain.
Reports from April indicated that Google had plans to introduce a new device program called “Android Silver,” which would replace the current Nexus program that introduces new smartphones and tablets running Google’s stock Android software each year.
Many tech informants and analysts have given their predictions as to what Android Silver might be and what the program might mean for Google. The Information, in particular, speculated that Google may release Android Silver to compete with the congruent iOS ecosystem that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has developed. However, it appears the tables may be turning and the Nexus program might be here to stay while the proposed Android Silver program might be phased out before it even starts.
Recent rumors now suggest that Google has a Nexus 6 smartphone in its pipeline. According to tech website Android Police, Google has given the upcoming device the codename “Shamu” due to its size; the device may be a 5.9-inch “phablet,” which may be manufactured by Motorola (NYSE: MSI).
Notably, Google sold Motorola to Lenovo (HKG:0992) in January after having the smartphone maker as a subsidiary for about a year. The company’s relationship proved to be a conflict of interest, which prevented them from working together on the Nexus program.
A new report by the Information says Google and Motorola began developing the new Nexus hardware soon after their business relationship dissolved. Google reportedly wanted access to Motorola’s Active Display and Touchless Control technologies, which are featured on the Moto X smartphone, for its own devices.
There are few details about the Nexus 6, other than its potential screen-size. The device being called the “Nexus 6” is not even certain at this point. But its purported development could in fact mean the end of Android Silver.
Google previewed its Android L software in June, after which Dave Burke, the head of Android engineering confirmed there were more Nexus devices on the way. Burke told Dan Rowinski of ReadWrite Google’s Nexus hardware is essential to the development of its Android software. Conversely, he would not share any details on Android Silver.
Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora -- who is leaving Google to head Softbank Internet and Media as CEO -- notably ran the Android Silver program and his absence may be the reason the program won’t move forward.
Several sources have told the Information Google may not have much interest in Android silver without Arora. Android Silver is -- or was -- reportedly intended to resolve fragmentation issues for Android software and to give Google control over updating devices marketed by third-party manufacturers. Similar to how most iPhones and iPads are readily compatible with each new iOS version, it is believed that Android Silver would make it so all of the most current Android devices will be able to update at the same time.
Android Silver devices were expected to be similar to Google Play Edition devices, which run stock Android, or the operating system without any third-party modifications. Many smartphone makers that use the Android operating system like to add their own user interfaces and other alterations to the software, much to Google's chagrin. This was believed to be the primary motivation for Android Silver; however, it remains to be seen if program will ever come to fruition. Android Silver was expected to launch sometime in 2015.
Now, among many questions is: How will consumers react to a Nexus phablet? Prior Nexus devices have been relatively small with the current Nexus 5 with a 5-inch display. With rumors Apple may be releasing 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhones, much larger than any previous iPhone model, Google might simply be trying to keep up with the industry.