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Google risks everything if it doesn’t grab Android round the throat

And it’s starting to make its own phones, pundit reckons

Google is getting serious about building its own handsets after the failure of OEMs to update Android. So says former Nomura (now independent) analyst Richard Windsor, who thinks Google-as-an-OEM has already started.

“I think that Google may start building handsets itself and my initial research indicates that a hardware team has been assembled in San Diego,” he writes

Windsor also thinks that it needs to seize key portions of the open source Android base and roll them into Google’s proprietary binary blob, GMS, starting with the ART runtime.

What’s fomented the crisis is that the installed base is not receiving Google’s platform updates. Google continues to develop Android at a breakneck speed but it’s spitting into the wind.

Windsor notes that Android L (5.0) is currently on just 34.1 per cent of Google’s Android devices, despite having been available for around 18 months. Version 6.0 (Marshmallow, or M) has barely made a mark on the installed base.

Four months after its release, M had reached just 1.2 per cent of devices.

Windsor has already tipped Google to take control of OTA updates from OEMs.

“This is a massive problem because it means that any innovations that Google makes to Android to compete against iOS, Windows or China will take 4 years to fully penetrate into its user base,” he wrote.

OEMs have nowhere to go, so will have to settle for whatever Google drops on them. It will risk the growth of the entire company if it does not,” he concluded.

Google has more pressing and serious problems than the pace of Android updates – in particular ad fraud and ad blockers – but it can't be happy at how slowly its innovations percolate down to users. ®

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