As far as operating system custodians go, Google is fairly relaxed. Some of you, perhaps those who’ve been unlucky enough to fall prey to the platform's relatively high levels of malware, might go further and say it's a bit lax.
But evidence that it wants to shore up Android has been around for a while. And this week, there were more signs that its grip is tightening.
According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Google has tired of the influence that networks exert on its operating system.
To curb their power, it plans to encourage manufacturing partners to freeze out carriers and start selling phones directly and sans contract.
To entice them on board, Google will break with tradition and allow its five key allies simultaneous early access to the upcoming Jellybean version of Android.
Previously, this level of access has been reserved for a preferred partner who is enlisted to manufacture that year’s Nexus phone on Google’s behalf.
So assuming all this is true, and let's face it the august scribes at the WSJ are pretty reliable sources, what is Google trying to achieve? And what are the odds of it getting it what it wants?
Well, for starters, at least one aim seems to be to cut down on the fragmentation problems that networks haven't helped by dragging their feet with Android updates. Not only do these delays irk customers, they inflict real damage on Android’s image.
It's also likely that Google wants to reduce the use of custom skins in favour of the easier-to-update vanilla form of the OS that is characteristic of Nexus kits. These user interface customisations have been used by manufacturers to differentiate their phones in a crowded market. But they've had the side effect of delaying updates and fuelling further fragmentation.
But it’s not just that. If reports can be believed, the move also seems intended to assure the ranks of manufacturing partners that they’re still important to Google and Android.
That’s something that that some have claimed the search giant has needed to do for a while after buying out Motorola last year, potentially rendering third-party partners redundant.
But is Google going the right way about getting what it wants and defanging the networks? That’s a whole let less clear.
We’re certainly far from convinced that consumers are ready to start buying phones directly from manufacturers and abandon the carrier-subsidy system they’re used to.
The far-from-stellar sales figures for the original Google Nexus, which tried something similar, are proof positive of that. And we’re not sure that anything has changed since to make punters any more amenable to the idea.
We’re also a bit sceptical that manufacturers will be fully on board with the idea of abandoning custom skins.
Remove this means to differentiate their phones and they’ll be justly concerned – a concern that we’re not sold that early access to Jellybean will be sufficient to assuage.
One thing bringing phone-makers closer into the fold could definitely do, in the short term at least, is go some way to reassuring them that Motorola won’t be getting all the juiciest Android features from hereon in.
But given the lack of cachet the Moto brand carries outside Europe and the slim chance that it'd be viable as the sole Android phone manufacturer, it’s hard to believe that the likes Samsung and LG were too concerned about that in the first place.