Android’s “Silver” program reportedly designed to wrest back control over Android

Earlier reports that Google is building a new Silver brand of handsets got a big boost in this report (subscription required). This Tech Crunch article lays out the details.

To me, the biggest impact is this:

The phones would be designed to extend Google’s recent efforts to control its presence on Android devices more than it has in the past, like the mandatory ‘Powered by Android’ logo on boot screens and the folder of Google-created apps. Silver devices will also get more timely Android updates, like Nexus hardware.

Seems like a shot across Samsung’s bow.

In fact, part of the motivation behind Google’s Silver program is said to be winning back more control of Android from Samsung in particular. Reports have long suggested there could be some unease at Google about the amount of influence Samsung has over Android given its dominant global market share.

This move is sure to extend the fragmentation in the Android market, meaning fewer phones will be running the latest and greatest.

  • Kip Beatty

    There is no “Android” market. Wrest control of what? There is a Samsung market. Take away Samsung and what exactly does Google and Android have in the marketplace? What share? Take away the hundreds of millions of dollars of marketing dollars spent by Samsung pushing their line of Android phones and what would be left?

    • invinciblegod

      Uh, so they are trying to take the Samsung market for themselves? Not exactly hard to understand.

      • Kip Beatty

        Sure it is when it’s the antitheses of what Android was supposed to be about. And, I thought that’s what the purchase of Motorola was supposed to give Google? What about Nexus?

        Google just keeps throwing stuff against the wall hopping something will stick, but they have no idea what to do with Android. It’s making Samsung a lot of money, but what exactly has it done for Google? My understanding is they still make more money off the iPhone.

        • invinciblegod

          Well, since they bought android in the first place to prevent a windows 95 like monopoly on mobile (and hoped that they will become the top smartphone vendor which didn’t happen), their goal is mainly complete in that Apple doesn’t have monopoly power in smartphones giving them the ability to say ban google services and locking google out of the market (not that they would). Now that that goal is complete, they are trying to actually earn money on android which is where the current problems come in.

          • Correction. They weren’t trying to “prevent a windows 95 like monopoly on mobile”. That’s exactly what they wanted, but they wanted to be Windows 95, not someone else.

          • invinciblegod

            Well, they wanted both (like I indicated in my post).

        • imthedude

          Sure it is when it’s the antitheses of what Android was supposed to be about.

          And they weren’t going to be evil, either. This move is not at all surprising.

          • invinciblegod

            I still don’t get the people hating on the dont be evil. I think “dont be evil” usually means stuff like “dont sponsor foreign wars for proft” or “dont restrict medical treatment for profit”. At worst google is creepy not evil so I think they still live up to it.

  • Sid

    Nobody seems to be talking about how this represents the utter failure of the Nexus programme.

    • matthewmaurice

      Actually, if anything it’s taking the “Nexus programme” to the next level. Silver is basically allowing any, or hopefully all, OEMs to do a Nexus-type device.

  • Herding_sheep


    • Tvaddic

      What are you even talking about? A company can chose to have Google pay them, or they can steal use the open Android for free.

  • Samsung will go to Tizn. The average Android consumer really has no idea what operating system their phone is running.

    • matthewmaurice

      I’m not sure Tizn will go over too well in the US. Smartphones are all about ecosystem, and as we’ve seen from Windows Phone, if you don’t have a robust ecosystem behind you, you’re not going to get very far.

    • As soon as they find there is no Twitter or Facebook for Tizen, they’ll know.

  • invinciblegod

    How would this worsen fragmentation. This program sounds like it replaces google’s current nexus and google edition phone program with a “silver edition” in stores. So at worse, fragmentation would not change if no one buys the silver edition phones (which will supposedly get prompt updates from google) or at best improve slightly if silver edition phones have higher sales than the current nexus/google program (which do indeed get prompt updates from google). Under no scenario can I think of that this will “extend the fragmentation” (unless the silver edition promises are a lie).

    Sometimes, even if you don’t like something, you have to come up with reasonable arguments instead of “FRAGMENTATION!!!!!” or else you just lose credibility.

    • i thought the point was it creates another super-citizen in the android landscape, leaving other OEMs to fend for their own w/ sub-citizen android rollouts which typically dont get updated often/ever, leaving devs trying to figure out where to draw the line in the sand when rolling out new updates or support. ie, fragmentation.

      • invinciblegod

        I don’t know what you mean by “sub-citizen android rollouts”. What they do is release the source code for the base of android for every version and let the manufacturers modify or write drivers for it. The nexus phones google writes their own drivers so they are first. For the google edition phones which are stock android, the manufacturer only has to modify the google drivers for their phones so they come out second. The manufacturer phones they also have to modify android for their proprietary add-ons and write drivers so they come out last.

        THe silver edition will probably be like the current google edition so they should get them second (first if nexus program is discontinued).

        Also, if you a manufacturer use some weird off brand chipset that no one writes drivers for they have to write drivers from scratch which is where some phones don’t get updated (OMAP was discontinued, Tegra for phones).

        • sub-citizen android = all the android handsets/products that do not or cannot update their OS versions. doesnt really matter why they do not or cannot (articles can and have been written about such), but it does matter that they dont. that this is the state of the android landscape is certainly what contributes to the developer support problem for android. ie, fragmentation.

          • invinciblegod

            But then how does this program make fragmentation worse then the current situation. For instance, right now if it is 10% nexus/google up to date phones and 90% abandoned phones, with the silver program it becomes maybe 15% silver/nexus/google phones 85% abandoned phones. So it still doesn’t make fragmentation worse. Having another “super nexus” program only adds to the pool of up to date phones.

          • i dont think it’s a zero-sum game — having another tier of double-good-android handsets may not actually detract from the number of will-be-abandoned models by other manufacturers.

            if these are going to be the easiest-to-update then they may not be abandoned. but i dont know exactly what other factors are considerations there may be — eg, is this just a marketing brand of hardware, or is it a new offset of google-sanctioned certified android, with certain conditions and technical considerations?

            at this point to me, it comes off as just another variant of what android is. as cited below, Ben Bajarin’s observation of android as a platform for creating platforms — here’s another: “Android Silver”. how will it differ? who will embrace it? what are they giving up in return? those will surely affect dev/support decision. we may be wrong, but it just looks like more variance in Android to me.

            contrast with iOS, which has no such live-variants or build tiers…only “current”, and “previously-current”.

          • Moeskido

            I doubt very many of these points will matter very much to non-technical consumers looking for a cheap smartphone, or to phone-store employees who are getting spiffs from rival manufacturers.

  • matthewmaurice

    I’m not sure I buy this idea of “winning back more control of Android”. Does anyone doubt that Google still fully controls, at least the development of, Android? The issue is what companies are doing with Android after Google releases it.

    This goes back to what Ben Bajarin wrote about Android as a “platform for which others can create platforms” and ‘Google Play Android’ vs ‘AOSP Android.’ Google clearly wants the vast majority of Android phones to include all the Google services that generate that lucrative data for The Algorithm. Otherwise Google is just subsidizing an OS framework other vendors can modify and profit from (cf Xiaomi and Amazon), and we all know what happens to Google products that fail to monetize (e.g. Buzz, Reader, Jaikut).

    • Kip Beatty

      My guess is at some point in the not too distant future Samsung’s Android will be like Amazon’s version of Android on their Kindle devices; forked and completely unique to Samsung. What Google will then control is the version they sell on their own branded devices.

      • matthewmaurice

        Unless Tizen is just some serious bet hedging, I doubt we’ll see Samsung fork Android ala Amazon. Samsung wants to sell lucrative devices, so the Amazon/Xiaomi model doesn’t make much sense, especially if you’re spending money on an ASOP alternative.

  • Tvaddic

    How will this extend fragmentation? Samsung/HTC/Sony aren’t going to come out with more Android phones just because Google is doing this.

    • the question is whether it creates more complications for developers and other ecosystem providers (hardware accessories, too). maybe Silver wont. but maybe it will.

      • Tvaddic

        What complications could it create? Everything I said that Google is fitting the bill for a lot of research/marketing etc.

  • Moeskido

    Wait, you mean this is yet another opportunity to get a device whose software and hardware UI is designed by Google?

    Land sakes, sign me up!!


    Google is turning into Intel. Intel came out with Ultrabook spec for all the OEMs so they could have facsimile of Macbook.

    Google will have the same success as Intel’s marketing. Google then will come out with “Android Inside” or “Google Inside” stickers of all the OEMs.

  • Terry Maraccini

    Watch out Jim. It’s just another slogan and no real change to how those guys do business. It will be different next year.

  • Jony0

    “This move is sure to extend the fragmentation in the Android market, meaning fewer phones will be running the latest and greatest.”

    So if this is true shouldn’t it be called Android “Sliver” ?