As reported back in March, the company plans to open a virtual storefront to sell branded tablets directly to customers. The move is supposedly to turn around sluggish sales of non-Kindle Fire Android tablets while providing a retail hardware service rivaling Apple and Amazon. It's also to simmer any hostilities that may arise due to the upcoming Google-Motorola acquisition deal.
The report said that Google's store will sell two branded tablets from Asus and Samsung although the former manufacturer is slated to arrive with a "Nexus" tablet first. Sources said these devices would sport Android 5.0 "Jelly Bean" and launch during 3Q12 at the earliest. Other manufacturers are expected to sell additional Android tablets and smartphones to make Google's virtual stock appear more robust.
A new report now clarifies what will actually be sold in Google's new store. Unnamed sources claim that the company plans to distribute Android 5.0 "Jelly Bean" to five device manufacturers rather than limit the new release to just one as it has in the past. That means Google will have a large portfolio of branded tablets and smartphones at launch. This approach is expected to reduce the "trickle effect" when a new OS appears on the market.
This move may also be intended to reduce the number of "forked" Android builds that threaten to take over the market. As previously stated, manufacturers are worried that Motorola will get preference once the acquisition takes place. There's also talk that manufacturers are simply tired of Google telling them how to produce an Android tablet, and want to differentiate themselves from the competitors. Offering Jelly Bean to Google's five main partners would seemingly ease the Motorola bitterness while also assuring a line of "pure" tablets and smartphones before manufacturers head down their own path.
But here's the catch: because these phones and tablets aren't sold through networks, they'll be unlocked and SIM-free. Thus, at this point, there won't be a subsidy, so consumers will pay full price and then be required to hunt down a compatible network. Still, these devices may be sold outside Google's own virtual storefront at a handful of retailers in Europe, Asia and here in the United States.
Many critics have complained that releasing Android 5.0 in 3Q12 will be too early and may hurt the overall Android ecosystem. After all, Android 4.0 -- which is supposed to finally fix the fragmentation problem that has plagued the OS for years -- launched at the end of 2011 and has yet to fully infiltrate the Android market. As it stands now, many consumers are still waiting to move up from v2.3 "Gingerbread" while Ice Cream Sandwich devices fresh from the shop are few in number.