Ag. For the nerdly inclined, that symbol is readily recognized. For the Google-inclined, it's something altogether different. What is Google Silver? It's a new software standard and certification process that Google plans to roll out to several OEMs (including Motorola and LG) to ensure a more unified Android experience. This new program is aimed at replacing the current inexpensive Nexus initiative.
Upon first blush, it seems like Google plans on reigning in the controls of Android a bit. With the partners in line, Google wants to try to gain a better foothold on Android and make sure the OEMs have devices with something as close to "stock" as possible. This "stock" will definitely include Google Now and possibly Photo Sphere. Google also plans on keeping the expanded Silver features closed off to non-Silver OEMs. In other words, if you don't pay, you don't play.
With Silver, effectively, a new version of Android will be put in play — one separate from the open-source version of Android. This also might well herald the end of Google offering high-end hardware at affordable prices. However, these costs might well be worth the loss. Why? The biggest plus with Silver is standardization. One of the prime issues to still plague Android is the inconsistency across devices. From HTC, to LG, to Motorola, to Samsung — each has their own take on what Android is and should be. To the end user (and those supporting the end user), this means confusion and feature variation. Silver editions of Android devices would come with the same platform — a pure Google version of Android (and no carrier bloatware). The hardware? Most likely all Silver devices would lean toward (or even re-define) the high end. The cost? At this point, no one knows.
Personally, I believe this is the right move on Google's part. Users need consistency, and Google needs to put an end to the bloatware falling into Android's lap from the carriers and OEMs. Getting a more pure-form Android out to the masses would be a boon to the platform — especially on high-end hardware.
Of course, it's understandable that those who like to tinker and tweak their devices have questions. Will the Silver devices be rootable? Will the bootloaders be locked? With the devices be restricted to a carrier? None of these questions have answers.
The vast majority of users probably will not be directly and immediately affected by this new initiative. Those who are keen on the Nexus program? They'll see the effects first. And even though the masses have nothing to do with the Nexus program, they'll eventually enjoy the benefit of its existence in the way of new features and designs to the Android platform. Will that be the case with Silver? Will the non-Silver, open-source platform remain open and also miss out on a lot of the development achieved within the Silver program?
There are a lot of questions. But there's no question that the landscape of Android needs a bit of a shuffle. As the lack of standards continues to plague the platform and OEMs keep adding their own bloated flavoring to Android, the platform spreads thinner and thinner. With Silver, Android can be forced back into focus, and Google will empower OEMs to offer the Android that Google intended to the public.
Don't get me wrong, even with the bloatware and lack of standards, Android is still my platform of choice (and the choice of the majority of the planet). But it still needs a bit of polish — polish Silver could certainly bring to the fore.
Google is setting a new Silver standard for Android. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.