It was only a week ago that we learned Google is in talks to partner with chip manufacturers on future processors. As this was most directly tied to the Pixel division, speculation was that Google was looking to build their own chips for their own hardware. While this may still be true, it is only a small part of the story.
As it turns out, Google may be looking to do more than just put processors in their Pixel hardware, they are looking to take some control of the entire Android device market.
Controlling the hardware
When it comes to taking control of Android hardware, decisions are mostly left in the hands of the manufacturers. Google creates the software, but your favorite brand of phone maker puts it into some metal, glass and plastic and off to the store it goes.
In contrast, Apple takes nearly full control of their hardware. The ability to control almost all aspects of a device allows Apple to better control the overall experience of products, like the iPhone and iPad.
You don’t have to build it, just implement standards
Google has been diversifying its technologies across things like phones, tablets, laptops, watches, smart glasses, VR gear, drones, self driving cars and so much more. When it comes to Android phones and tablets, however, they have had little to do with the hardware behind the majority of devices on the market.
With efforts like the Nexus program, Android One and the old Google Play edition phones, Google was able to team with manufacturers and/or set standards for the development of hardware. The result enabled a fairly satisfactory control of the experience, but left manufacturers mostly at the mercy of Google for approval of products.
With this new information, Google is partnering with chip makers to build standards, more than chips. The idea is simple, Google knows what it has in the pipeline for future tech and desired capabilities of Android devices, more importantly, they have a clear picture of what Android should look and feel like on a phone or tablet.
Google simply needs to establish chip designs, not make them, then manufacturers can build a device around the processor standard.
What can the new chips do?
Chips may be diverse in design based on their application as well. For example, a smartphone chip may need to include several high powered cores to handle strenuous tasks, several low power cores for behind the scenes, low priority or screen-off functionality. In addition, a very low power core or two can handle full time voice recognition, syncing tasks, location services and more.
On the other hand, an Android tablet may require fewer cores, eliminating dedicated processing for the non-existent cellular connectivity or perhaps gesture recognition. The same holds true of virtual reality gear, with next to no stand-by activities, aside from updates, a VR processor can focus on handling the active user experience, but otherwise using as little energy as possible when not on a user’s head.
With this all said and done, we have yet to see what Google and the chip manufacturers come up with. From there, we’ll have to see if device manufacturers conform to the new standards, or if this venture proves as successful as Android One. While manufacturers of Android One devices are sticking to the guidelines, the end result is a phone that is now outdated, or otherwise being undersold by heated competition in the inexpensive phone space.
We like the idea of Google taking efforts to improve the end-user experience, as we like our Nexus devices, but we also worry that competition will cry foul. Terms like ‘monopoly’ are already applied to Google’s business, putting strict controls on the processors of future Android devices may prove too much for the governing bodies to allow. But that is another battle for another day.
What do you think, can Google improve your Android experience by leading the way in future processor design?