Google announced its Android One initiative, intended to drive the creation of low-cost Android smartphones for developing markets.
Announcing the programme at the Google I/O developer conference, Sundar Pichai, SVP for Android, Chrome & Apps, said that while the intention is to launch worldwide, its initial focus is on the Indian market, working with vendors Micromax, Karbonn and Spice. Target pricing is sub-$100.
Pichai also said that Google is working with operators in target markets, to provide affordable connectivity packages for devices.
Android One includes hardware reference platforms as well as Android in its stock form; “the same software you see running on Nexus phones and Google Play edition phones”. Device makers and operators can also add locally-relevant applications, “which users have full control over”.
This approach also means that Google will ensure its apps and content portfolio is positioned front-and-centre on devices, limiting the potential for vendors to prioritise competing apps from alternative providers.
Interestingly, while all three vendors named are already Android device makers, Micromax and Karbonn have also recently signed-up as Windows Phone partners – enticed by the availability of new reference designs and the ability to run the Microsoft platform on hardware originally designed for Android.
To this end, Google’s efforts can be seen as a defensive move to protect its position in the low-cost device market, against a backdrop of enhanced competition from rivals such as Microsoft and Mozilla’s Firefox OS, which recently picked-up support from Spice.