A Nexus backfire Coming at Google I/O
David is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Later this week Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) will hold its developer conference Google I/O. There we expect to see a preview of their next generation of Android, Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean will either be Android 5.0 or Android 4.1 depending on how they decide to number the release (it looks like it will be 4.1 at this point). We may also see Google’s competitor app to Siri. At one point we believed it to be named Majel after the Star Trek computer though it may have been renamed Assistant. This application would duplicate the functionality of the S Voice app that Samsung has just released for their Galaxy SIII. We will also see an update to Google TV which has not had a major update since its Honeycomb update in 2011.
One of the other rumors that we have heard is that Google will be launching their own $200-250 tablet. This tablet would be running the new Jelly Bean operating system and would be powered by NVidia’s Quad Core Tegra 3 processor, through project Kai. Project Kai was announced by NVidia as a reference for tablet makers as it spells out a way to design and make a $200 quad core tablet. In addition to a new tablet made and sold directly by Google under their Nexus brand; there has been a rumor that Google will launch a full line of devices under the Nexus brand. This would create a widely available Android set of devices that consumers could chose if they wanted the Android experience. It would also create a full line of reference devices for manufacturers to design from and compete with.
However this Nexus line should it come to pass could backfire on the open Android ecosystem that Google has built. Samsung and HTC are already building up a single brand for their Android phones, Samsung behind the Galaxy brand and HTC has the One series. Going forward these will be the large international brands of Android smartphones. Google launching their own brand of Android devices and selling them directly along with their recent purchase of Motorola could be a turn off for some Android manufacturers. They would find themselves in competition with Google instead of in cooperation. Even if none of the new Nexus devices are actually made by Motorola, Google is stepping beyond just pushing Android as a platform. Google is going further than a single reference phone, like the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S, and would have their own full line of competing products.
The single best selling smartphone, Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone has a single unified brand and that simplicity is part of its success. This is the same with the iPad and the iPods. Wherever you are in the world and whatever carrier you are using if you want an iPhone, the iPhone is virtually identical. This is the same with Windows Phone from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT); their deal with Nokia (NYSE: NOK) means that their flagship Windows Phones are all sold under the Lumia brand. Though there are other Windows Phones from other manufacturers, the best known one and the bestselling are the Lumia phones from Nokia. It could be that part of the reason other manufactures have not jumped head first into Windows Phone is because they feel that Nokia has a special deal with Microsoft. Since they would not get this deal their Windows Phone ventures, so far they have been somewhat halfhearted.
Research in Motion (NASDAQ: BBRY) also has a unified brand for all of their smartphones with BlackBerry. Though different carriers have different Blackberry phones they are all sold under the BlackBerry brand. The services that Research in Motion provide for Blackberry phones is uniform because they are provided by the manufacturer. The latest generation of the BlackBerry operating system, Blackberry 10, is launching later this year.
One of the largest complaints with the Android ecosystem is its fragmentation. This fragmentation is beginning to correct itself as Samsung and HTC both are unifying their options behind a single brand, Galaxy and One respectively. Both of these new brands also have more toned down versions of the skins, TouchWiz and Sense UI, which Samsung and HTC put over Android. The Galaxy S and Galaxy SII have sold a combined 50 million units making them the bestselling Android phones. Samsung is also the number two tablet maker according to ABI research for the first quarter of 2012 overtaking Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
With strong brands establishing themselves on the Android platform and with some concerns already arising from Google’s purchase of Motorola; perhaps Google should make a single reference phone for Android as they do now and a single reference tablet. These two reference devices would show what a high quality Android tablet and phone can be, instead of the rumored line of Nexus Android devices.
Smaller manufacturers like Asus would be over the moon to be the maker of the Google tablet. Larger manufactures like Samsung who already make a successful and growing tablet line may feel that there tablet line is being undermined by direct competition from Google. Google should be a partner not a competitor with its own full line of branded Android devices. If Google is trying to exercise more control over the Android ecosystem to quicken the update cycle, unify the user experience and have quality control; perhaps they should do it through a set of stricter standards hardware manufacturers must meet to get the Google Play store and Google apps. These standards would be in place of launching a full line of their own devices which would compete against their partners.
ded004 has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Nokia. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.