Earlier this week at I/O 2014 Google unveiled new software initiatives that expand its reach into the automotive, wearable and television market. While developers tinker around with Android Auto, Android Wear and Android TV software the company has put its foot down this time around for manufacturers. For years, OEMs have been allowed to alter the user interface and slap on custom skins on Android smartphones and tablets, but they won’t be extended the same courtesy on these new initiatives. Google will have sole control over the user interface for Android Auto, Wear and TV.
Google engineering director David Burke confirmed to Ars Technica that the underlying software and user interfaces of all three initiatives will be controlled by Google and not the OEMs. Talking about Android TV in particular, Burke said that “The UI is more part of the product in this case,” and in the interest of providing a more consistent user experience, the interfaces across these devices will be the same.
Though he did say that OEMs will have the ability to brand their products and even include their own services. Samsung recently confirmed that while its Android Wear smartwatches can’t wear the Magazine UX or TouchWiz skins they’ll be integrating their own services in the wearable devices down the line.
This shift in strategy also gives Google more control over the software update process. It will be able to manage updates for different devices from different manufacturers directly, and in the end, be able to provide users with a consistent experience.
Manufacturers who insist on making their products completely different from the pack would then have to rely upon forks of Google’s software. Like Amazon has done with its Kindle Fire and Fire TV, the underlying OS is Android, but its heavily modified and doesn’t support Google’s services.