Adam Outler · May 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Google’s 5 Rumored Nexus Devices May Not be What You Think

Historically, the officially sanctioned Nexus line has come from just one manufacturer. While the manufacturer has changed through the passing iterations, there has never been more than one for any particular generation.According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, Google plans to allow 5 manufacturer the ability to produce the Nexus development platform.

Google plans to give multiple mobile-device makers early access to new releases of Android and to sell those devices directly to consumers, said people familiar with the matter. That is a shift from Google’s previous practice, when it joined with with only one hardware maker at a time to produce “lead devices,” before releasing the software to other device makers. Those lead devices were then sold to consumers through wireless carriers or retailers.

Not all manufacturer’s devices are created equal.  There are several characteristic traits that each manufacturer places on a device’s hardware. HTC notoriously places non-standard screws on their devices and makes their devices out of metal. Samsung makes highly servicable devices out of plastic with on-board crumple-zones.  Motorola makes it easy to get into the device, but solders down shields over each component.

How can it be logical to have 5 different manufacturers, each with their own idea as to what makes the ideal device, make the official Google Nexus Android Development Platform?   While at first it makes no logical sense to have 5 totally different devices bear the name “Nexus,” there may be some technical reasoning behind this seemingly irrational move.

One idea is that having 5 separate manufacturers provide 5 similar devices is an attempt to gain control over the carriers. Having several manufacturers provide similar products will flood the market and strong-arm carriers into carrying Nexus device as well as foster a bloatware-unfriendly environment.

However, there has been no official news that these Nexus devices would be phones. Google is on the verge of launching a line of tablets, which is rumored to be in a competitive price-range with the Kindle Fire. This would provide a pure Android experience out-of-box at a reasonable price for the every-day user. Considering this news, it is entirely possible that the 5 Nexus devices could be entirely separate pieces of hardware, including a possible lineup of phone, tablet, TV, wrist-watch, set-top box, laptop, car-stereo, head-gear, and perhaps even something entirely different.

One glaring problem stands out among all of the speculation and rumors—the Android Source tree.  The pure logistics of supporting 5 devices with entirely different characteristics seems like a substantial issue.  How could AOSP support so many separate devices?

If Android entirely skips the Linux 3.1,  3.2 and 3.3 kernels, several benefits await.  The Linux 3.3 developmental kernel had several additions that incorporated Android into the heart of Linux. One of the biggest changes in the Linux 3.3 development cycle was the integration of key Android components, which bring the Android kernel into the Linux mainline.

While the old scheme of odd-numbered releases not being intended for daily use is no longer the case;  Several issues, including power-managment made the 3.3 kernel non-viable for use as a replacement for the current 3.0 Android kernel.  We now stand on the verge of the 3.4 stable release kernel, which has been prepared to split Android and Linux.   The vanilla 3.4 mainline Linux kernel will be interchangable between devices that support it. This brings the burden of maintaining Linux to the front doors of each hardware manufacturer.  In other words, if Qualcomm wants their processors to run Android, they must support Linux development and not just Android development.

With this in mind, it is entirely possible that there may be 5 Nexus phones made by 5 separate manufactures. However, no reports stated they would be phones,which means we may have to change our ideas about what exactly constitutes a Nexus?

Sources: XDA-Developers ForumWall Street JournalLinux via Google+Engadget


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Adam Outler

AdamOutler is an editor on XDA-Developers, the largest community for Android users. Electronics Tech/ Developer View AdamOutler's posts and articles here.
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