Motorola’s Sanjay Jha has said that his company’s custom Android skin, Motoblur, is “no longer the focus,” when it comes to making its Google-backed blowers.
Jha’s comments have interpreted as the end of the social-networking focused user interface, which debuted less than a year ago on the average Motorola Dext. It appears Motorola wants to work on vanilla Android devices, a theory which is borne out by the Droid 2 and Milestone XT720, both of which opt for the simple styling of Google’s OS.
But the big question is, what does this mean for other Android custom skins? One of the key reasons behind Motorola’s decision is said to be the increasing advancement of vanilla Android, and its ability to handle the kind of tasks which only skins could manage on older versions such as Cupcake.
Google is said to be overhauling Android’s UI with Gingerbread, which is due out at some point before the end of the year, with October the most likely release date. The changes are not only aimed at making the OS integrate better with social networks and give the Big G a greater edge of Apple and BlackBerry: there’s also talk that the changes are designed to stymy the need for custom skins, and by dint the lengthy waits for updates, as being experienced by HTC Desire owners looking for Android FroYo right now.
Such tweaks would make the likes of the excellent HTC Sense and Sony Ericsson’s UX UI redundant, or at least push them into a background role. Why use skins when the OS already does everything the user could possibly want? One way around this for manufacturers would be to offer minor tweaks to the system which don’t majorly affect the updating process. It’s been noted on these pages before that Google needs to take greater control over the upgrade process in order to convince consumers that its increasingly swift update process is worth sticking with. If Sony Ericsson can’t even get Android 2.1 onto the Xperia X10 now, something needs to be done to make the whole way upgrades are sent out more efficient and less laborious.
Motoblur’s end could well signal the end for Android skins as we know them. Today’s rumoured PSP phone, with Android 3.0, is said to rock a custom UI, perhaps even the XMB of the console itself. But don’t expect this to be all pervasive. More likely, it will be a dedicated homescreen, while vanilla Android sits pretty on the rest of the device. It’s fair to say that Motorola’s move to end Motoblur points towards a more unified and Google-controlled future for Android.