Play Edition & OEM Incentive
Today's launch of the Google Play Edition phones is something many Android fans have been craving for years, and it got me thinking about how Google was able to get the OEMs on board. Aside from a glowing endorsement from Google, one of the biggest advantages to building a Nexus device was early access to new software. This enabled them to push out more timely updates to their flagship devices, an area in which most OEMs have struggled. The Nexus devices themselves were of little value to these companies. Their sales were typically uninspiring, meager marketing efforts did little to promote brand awareness, and the OEMs had to devote resources into building them that could have been used elsewhere.
With the Play Edition phones, much of that has changed. The OEMs no longer have to spend time and money designing new phones to Google's specifications. Their branding isn't diluted by Google's Nexus branding; they bare the same names as their skinned counterparts. And because the software on these devices is maintained by the OEMs, they will have the early access to new versions of Android that Nexus builders enjoy. All they have to do is make small tweaks to the software that Google provides and load it onto hardware that they've already designed. There are virtually no additional development costs, and these devices still benefit from the same marketing as the base models. An added bonus is free advertising in the Play Store. Whether or not these devices are a huge commercial success, the strategy is a win-win for OEMS, Google, and consumers.
What this means for the Nexus program remains to be seen, but Google has a vested interest in maintaining a line of devices that design and control entirely so I wouldn't count on it going away any time soon.