Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) new Android-based software platforms for wearable devices, cars and TV sets will all have software and user interfaces controlled by Google, and OEMs will not be able to create skins on top of them, according to a Google executive.
Speaking to Ars Technica, David Burke, a Google engineering director, said the new Android initiatives Google announced last week at its I/O developer conference will have standardized UIs.
"The UI is more part of the product in this case," Burke said of Android TV in particular. "We want to just have a very consistent user experience, so if you have one TV in one room and another TV in another room and they both say Android TV, we want them to work the same and look the same... The device manufacturers can brand it, and they might have services that they want to include with it, but otherwise it should be the same."
However, Google's position on the user interface for its Android Wear, Auto and TV platforms isn't stopping some from hoping to differentiate their products. A Samsung executive told CNET that the company plans to add additional features and services to its Android Wear-based Gear Live smart watch beyond those available from Google as a way to separate the product from other Android Wear devices.
Last week Google unveiled new features and functions for its previously announced Android Wear operating system. Google said Android Wear devices can easily interact with other Android devices including phones and tablets, and will be able to display alerts from its Google Now service.
Google also announced Android Auto, which is designed to push specific Android applications and services into automobiles. The company said a wide range of auto makers including Audi and Volvo are participating in the program, and the first cars that can support Android Auto will be available later this year. And Android TV will push Android apps and services onto users' TVs. The TV interface works through a directional pad and voice commands, and displays video content like movies and TV shows available through the Android ecosystem.
In Android's infancy, when the platform only ran on smartphones, OEMs were given free range to customize Android software as they saw fit. Samsung Electronics, for instance, still has its TouchWiz UI and HTC still supports its own Sense UI.
However, Google has sought to streamline the look and feel of Android as it has matured and spread to more than a billion devices globally. Part of that effort can be glimpsed in the "Mobile Application Distribution Agreements" OEMs have signed with Google, which require manufacturers to make Google Search the device's default search engine. The agreements even require placement of Google apps in certain locations on the device, such as having its Play Store icon "immediately adjacent" to the home screen.
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