One of the reasons that Google’s Android operating system became so popular over the past few years is that third-party manufacturers can modify it to their heart’s content. Samsung, Amazon and others have all used the software as a foundation for creating their own mobile ecosystems, each with a unique look and feel.
However much that openness benefited Google, there are signs that the party might be at an end, at least with regard to the next-generation devices running Android: According to Ars Technica, Google—and not the manufacturers—will maintain control of the software at the foundation of Android Wear, Android TV and Android Auto.
“We want to just have a very consistent user experience, so if you have one TV in one room and another TV in another room and they both say Android TV, we want them to work the same and look the same,” Google Engineering Director David Burke told Ars. “The device manufacturers can brand it, and they might have services that they want to include with it, but otherwise it should be the same.”
As Burke said, such consistency could prove a good thing for consumers; anyone who’s participated in the Android ecosystem knows that, while many of the apps and functions remain constant between brands and devices, there is the occasional weirdness that erupts when a manufacturer decides to try and make their version of Android “distinctive.” For third-party app developers, Google’s strategy may also yield benefits: “Regular” software could make porting apps between brands and devices that much easier.
But for manufacturers, Google maintaining control of the software could crimp their plans for Android-based “smartwatches,” televisions and vehicle dashboard systems. Whether that curbs their enthusiasm for building those platforms remains to be seen.
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