Google Now Has a Nexus Company


Now that Google has completed its once-surprising acquisition of Motorola Mobility the question is what will they do with it.

Some have speculated that Mountain View went after Moto solely for their stable of patents and rumors of a sale to Huawei last month lent more credence to that line of thought. But if we take Larry Page at his word on the Google Blog, that’s definitely not the case.

"It’s a well known fact that people tend to overestimate the impact technology will have in the short term, but underestimate its significance in the longer term," he writes in a post announcing the completion of the deal.

Many users coming online today may never use a desktop machine, and the impact of that transition will be profound – as will the ability to just tap and pay with your phone. That’s why it’s a great time to be in the mobile business, and why I’m confident Dennis [long-time Googler and new CEO] and the team at Motorola will be creating the next generation of mobile devices that will improve lives for years to come.

That sure sounds like Google is committed to making hardware at Motorola – and not just phones (hello Chrome webtop and Motoogle TV?).

And it's great news for the Android fragmentation problem. Why? Because combined with reported changes to the Nexus program, it gives Google the ability to switch all of Motorola’s offerings to unadulterated vanilla Android.

Manufacturers put skins on their Android headsets and tablets because they claim they help differentiate their products from competitors. Now that Google owns a manufacturer they can shortcut that logic.

Manufacturers also claim that lack of early access to new Android versions leaves them behind in the upgrade cycle. Every year, the latest version of Android is launched alongside a new phone to showcase it – the Nexus. Only one company is chosen to produce the Nexus and only one is given early access to the new Android code. But if the WSJ is to be believed, the single-blessed-phone model will be replaced by up to five lead devices from different companies for the launch of Android 5.0 this fall.

If true, that gives Google plenty of cover to give Motorola engineers early access to future iterations of Android – alongside Samsung, HTC, Sony, and LG – allowing them to be involved early enough to ensure their fleet of vanilla devices stays on the all-important upgrade track too.

Google started the Nexus program to show off the latest versions of Android in a pure environment; to push the hardware and software envelope and hope other manufacturers follow. It’s Android the way it’s supposed to be. But it hasn’t incentivized OEMS to upgrade to new versions quickly enough. Six months after its release, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich – perhaps the biggest generational leap in Android yet – is on only five percent of headsets.

Fortunately, Google no longer has to settle for a single Nexus phone to prod manufacturers and carriers – it now has a Nexus company.

Whether it happens sooner or later, ensuring all Motorola phones run vanilla Android could be an enormous boon to the consistency of the platform, benefiting developers and consumers while also putting pressure on other OEMs to not only maintain their commitment to upgrades but also produce skins that actually add value to vanilla Android rather than just gumming it up.