Google does indeed have a so-called “Silver” program in the works, as reported originally in early April by Android Police, says The Information. But the intent isn’t just to improve customer support around Android devices, as it seemed at first.
Instead, The Information reports that it’s about Google gaining more control over the Android ecosystem and building a Nexus-style program with more teeth and the potential to reach a wider swath of the buying public through incentive-driven partnerships with carriers and OEMs.
The incentives include what The Information says are indirect payments, with perhaps as much as $1 billion in spending on promoting Silver devices through ad campaigns and through in-store displays and kiosks with employees trained by Google to extol the virtues of Silver devices. In exchange, Google would require that Silver phones carry a very limited number of non-Google apps pre-installed, or at least that these be removable by end users after purchase.
The phones would be designed to extend Google’s recent efforts to control its presence on Android devices more than it has in the past, like the mandatory ‘Powered by Android’ logo on boot screens and the folder of Google-created apps. Silver devices will also get more timely Android updates, like Nexus hardware.
Google isn’t limiting the Silver program to software edicts, either; The Information says the program will help support development of advanced hardware features including waterproofing, as well as improved software features like voice recognition. At least initially, the program will likely target OEMs that are underrepresented in the current Android spread, like current Nexus participant LG. Motorola is also said to be a likely early partner. Others like Samsung, HTC and Sony, which have invested heavily in their own custom Android skins, are thought to be less likely to participate.
In fact, part of the motivation behind Google’s Silver program is said to be winning back more control of Android from Samsung in particular. Reports have long suggested there could be some unease at Google about the amount of influence Samsung has over Android given its dominant global market share.
To sum up, Silver sounds like an evolution of the Nexus or Google Play Edition programs, but one that has real teeth and a solid consumer focus, instead of something meant for outliers and early adopters. The new report claims a target launch date of next year in markets including the U.S., Germany and Japan, where Google sees it as a chance to better compete with the iPhone, with launches in emerging markets following soon after.