Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) will scrap its Nexus program in favor of a new program supported by in-store kiosks to compete directly with Apple Inc.'s (NASDAQ:APPL) iPhone, according to a report from The Information. Google currently oversees the production of Nexus devices from manufacturing partners like LG and Asus, which produce phones or tablets running on an unaltered versions of the company’s Android operating system.
Android Silver will be the name for a new set of high-end phones and devices that Google will promote in advertisements and retail wireless carrier stores. Google will reportedly subsidize the development and marketing costs for manufacturers that make the phones in return for tighter control over the phones’ Android operating system.
By having more direct access to Android-based smartphones' firmware via the Silver program than it does with current Android-based phones sold by third parties, Google hopes to eliminate or decrease the third-party software that's preinstalled on most smartphones, according to the report. The company's goal is to ensure prompt and reliable software updates for Android Silver devices, and to give users a uniform experience on all Android smartphones and tablets, regardless of the manufacturer.
The Information report said LG and Motorola are likely to take part in a Nexus replacement program, and the first phones from such a program may released sometime next year. However, Google may need to convince Samsung, Sony and HTC to join such a program. However, because all three of those companies offer Google Play editions of their flagship smartphones, which run a “stock” or unaltered version of Android, Google may not have too a difficult fight to get those companies on board with Android Silver.
Smartphone manufacturers often customize Android to differentiate themselves from competitors despite sharing the same underlying Google-authored mobile operating system. Google wants to curb those customizations, which often cause Google's updates to be delayed, because manufacturers’ software teams have to tailor each Google software update to accommodate each of their supported or current smartphone models. Google reportedly held talks in January with Samsung, in part to ask the South Korean phone-maker to limit its Android modifications for this reason.
The report also said that Google will likely target the U.S. and other developed markets with in-store kiosks before branching out into other parts of the world. Earlier reports said Google would offer a support program similar to Amazon Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Mayday service with Android Silver, through which customers could have video chats with representatives to help them learn more about their devices or get technical support 24 hours a day.
Staff at wireless carriers’ kiosks would need to be certified to sell Android Silver devices, and they would be required to do things like help customers move contacts and data from their old smartphones to their new Android phones, according to the report. Apple currently offers the same service for iPhone customers at its retail locations.
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