The explosion of Android occurred because many manufacturers adopted the platform. These manufacturers have been fighting to differentiate themselves by creating custom user interfaces (UI) on top of the Android software. Examples of this is HTC’s Sense, Motorola’s Blur, and Samsung’s Touchwiz.
I understand why these companies are doing this, but lets be honest, the average consumer has no clue about any of these UI’s. The average consumer is buying a device based on brand, recommendations, and more importantly, what their chosen carrier offers. Since just about everyone has abandoned the concept of stock Android, it seems like a perfect time for one manufacturer to commit to producing only (or mostly) stock Android devices. There are some advantages that are worthwhile to both the manufacturer and consumer.
The manufacturer will continue to have differentiation in the marketplace since there are very few devices that are stock. The only risk is that others jump on board, but it is unlikely since everyone is so deep rooted with the philosophy that they need differentiation. If by chance they do adopt the same practice it will be because it was such a success and the manufacturer who adopted this concept first would have increased its market share already.
Costs could be reduced or at least be more efficient. This manufacturer could concentrate less on developing their UI and devices could be released quicker. They could release better hardware specs before anyone else. It is unlikely software development could be completely abandoned because I believe some investments need to be made for developing applications that are exclusive to their devices. These applications can be offered for free to their customers through their own marketplace or offered to others at a charge. They could even outsource some development. Maybe their is a hot new keyboard or video editor from another developer that they could offer as an exclusive to their customers.
How about software updates? This is an issue across the board. There are companies like HTC and Motorola who are the fastest, but unfortunately winning a race with a bunch of turtles is nothing to brag about. I don’t want to see the announcement of Gingerbread and then have to wait 4 to 5 months for the update even if it is considered speedy as compared to everyone else. We need faster updates, and stock Android will enable that.
Lets go back to the phone that really kicked Android into space, the Droid. The Droid was basically a stock Android 2.0 device and it was very popular. The first major update was Android 2.1 and it was released for the Droid a little over 2 months after the SDK was released. That wasn’t too bad since it was the first Android phone by Motorola and Verizon Wireless. The wait has increased to a minimum of 4 months to maybe 1 year for lucky Samsung owners. A lot of phones never get updated. I do understand that some of this can be due to hardware limitations, but we all know a lot of the issues have absolutely nothing to do with that. The UI’s are the main culprit.
Which company is better suited to do this? It could be a company that has a very small market share that wants to create a niche, but I think Motorola is a perfect candidate. There is a lot of negativity on Blur and Motorola is still trying to reinvent themselves.
It doesn’t matter who it is, but somebody needs to step up to the plate. It doesn’t have to be 100%. Maybe 75% of their devices are stock and the rest have some sort of UI. They will be applauded by the media and myself.