Mobile

As Android’s reach expands, Google attracts fewer pioneer partners

Image Credit: Mark Sullivan/VentureBeat

The official theme of Google IO last week was Design, Develop and Distribute — but the unofficial one was Android Everywhere, as the mobile OS mounted new and renewed assaults on families of consumer devices.

In embarking on this expedition to new (or at least revisited) territory, Google is coming prepared. The company set up the spread of its forthcoming Android “L” update by talking about how it had made the platform prettier, faster and smarter.

Google has polished the user interface with its new “Material Design” model of animated surfaces existing in different layers. It’s improved performance with a new, backward-compatible runtime that’s more battery-efficient. And Google has added features such as contextual unlocking that can take advantage of, for example, nearby Bluetooth products to know if it’s in a trusted zone.

And Google has claimed its targets for this quiver of new features with Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV — a progression of devices from the smallest screen to the largest ones in consumers’ lives. Android seems poised to waltz from its dominance in smartphones to virtually every intelligent device.


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Compared to its chief rivals Apple and Microsoft (the latter of whose existence was hardly acknowledged at Google IO), Google has built the most comprehensive licensable platform for major intelligent consumer devices. The company has been first to release a full wearables SDK and the first to put the full power of its ecosystem behind the TV and retail set-top boxes. Microsoft, in contrast, has had success in the living room (or at least the den) with Xbox, which it has opened up to select Windows apps in the similar way that Google seems to be dancing around putting Android apps on Chrome OS.

And then there’s the question of implementation and adoption. Unlike when Apple reveals a vertically integrated product, the ultimate experience of these Android extensions will depend in part upon the devices that support them. Here, Android had only a handful of companies supporting its fullest Android implementations:

Android Wear

The market for wearables seems promising since the watch is now primed to evolve from a device that just offers the time, to one that serves as a host of contextual information. Google has done a great job anticipating these kinds of interactions  particularly as it implements more intelligence in the kinds of notifications Android surfaces to users’ attention.

However, many details still remain regarding Motorola’s Moto 360, the product most seen as best representing the category. LG is also an Android Wear launch partner with its G Watch, and Samsung announced its Android War device, the Gear Live, at I/O. But while having Samsung on board is a great endorsement, the company is clearly hedging its bets in wearables with its Tizen operating system.

Android Auto

Android Auto is Android in the car, but not of the car. The initiative, which mirrors Apple’s CarPlay, simply allows dashboard displays to display and provide input to Android phones. This no-brainer will see broad support by car makers and the aftermarket, but it hardly represents a strong commitment to Android. Google originally announced its intentions to bring Android to cars back in January at CES, where it kicked off the Open Automotive Alliance with dozens of partners.

Android TV

The second coming of Google TV is now embraced by the Android team since it has a more sensible, if less ambitious, message. But it’s also starting out with fewer supporters than its predecessor that burned the likes of Logitech and Vizio. Sony and Sharp have been among the only high-volume TV companies to sign up, and it’s doubtful that even the support of Google Play will turn around the small presence of microconsoles such as the Kindle FireTV and Ouya.

In short, the response to Android’s new initiatives has been broad where the commitment is low and shallow where the commitment is high. In all cases, Google has shown that it can provide a well thought-out platform that delivers the right functionality in the right context, but progress will be slow and uneven in the wide road it seeks to pave.

 

More information:

Sony is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Kōnan, Minato, Tokyo, Japan. Sony Corporation is the electronics business unit and the parent company of the Sony Group, which is engaged in business through... read more »

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

Samsung Group is a South Korean multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul. It comprises numerous subsidiaries and affiliated businesses, most of them united under the Samsung brand, and is the largest Sout... read more »

LG Corporation is a South Korean multinational conglomerate corporation. It is the fourth-largest company of its kind in South Korea, following Samsung Group, Hyundai Motors Group and SK Group. Its headquarters are situated in the LG T... read more »

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5 comments
Joe Belkin
Joe Belkin

Outside of subsidized smartphones for android OS, te Google name is death for consumers actually paying for hardware (they managed to lose market share when they owned Moto), not to mention Nexus (a few hundred thousand after 5 years - about what Apple sells in 24 hours), chromebooks, googleTV (a huge bomb). Android makers ship a lot of tablets but sales? NO ONE admits any numbers and internet surfing by tablets, android is dawrfed by the ipad - second is the amazon kindle, hardly "an android" product (80% to 7%). Google is a great ad sales company but they are hopelessly outclassed when it comes to CE. OEM's realize it's pointless to follow android, all you are doing is boosting google ad sales when commoditizing your own product. No tech company with a brain will follow Google's strict guidelines to help sell the google name unless it's fake comapnies with old brad names like polaroid, or rca or emerson. Come back in a year, google will slightly sell more watches than they do glasses. 

Darren Bates
Darren Bates

That article was awful. There's at least 20 partners for each of Android TV and Android Auto. It's just the start of the wearables and by narrowing their trusted tablet and phone OEMs down to 4 or 5 they get to control their platform. Venture Beat is a load of shite.

Niral Ramesh
Niral Ramesh

@Joe Belkin Google could care less about sales. Google's only goal is to get more people on the web and to get more people to use its services. Almost all Google products are available on just about every platform. With the Nexus line, Google allows individuals to purchase inexpensive devices and use Google services. With OEM Android phones, Google earns money off app purchases and the use of Google applications. Even iOS users contribute to Google's revenue by using Google Maps,Chrome and YouTube.

Ross Rubin
Ross Rubin

I count only 15 Android TV partners in this photo:

http://img.qz.com/2014/06/google-tv-brand-screen.jpg


And many of them are chip companies for which there's virtually no downside to supporting Android TV since they already support Android on handsets. The key is the major TV companies; of those there were only Sony, Sharp, TP Vision and LG (which is hedging its bets with its webOS-based system).

As the article notes, Android Auto did line up a lot of partners but that's because it's not really a new paltform, just an input-output mechamism for Android similar to what CarPlay is for iOS.

Andy Roberts
Andy Roberts

@Ross Rubin The top 10 best selling TVs according to http://lcdtvbuyingguide.com/top10.shtml are Samsung, Sony, Sharp, LG and Panasonic.  I fully expect Samsung to sign on - just like they did with the Android Wear Smart Watch.  That leaves Panasonic.  Based on that, I don't think Android TV is going to be wanting in partners.