Google looking for chip partners to enable Android to compete with Apple's A9 chip

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2015
Google has plans for series of chips it wants to co-develop with hardware partners to help standardize Android and make it more computationally competitive with Apple. However, the effort is considered a long shot by people in the chip industry.


Apple's tight integration allows it to rapidly innovate and deploy new features

Google wants Android more like Apple

A series of reports by Amir Efrati for The Information detail Google's concepts for making Android more competitive with Apple.

Apple has increasingly expanded its customizations of the Application Processors it uses in products like iPhones and iPads, enabling deep integration between the way its iOS software works and the hardware it runs on.

Once promoted as a "feature," it is now clear that Android's broad hardware fragmentation across different processors, mobile baseband chips, cameras and other sensors is preventing Google from quickly and effectively rolling out competitive functionality.

In negotiations with chipmakers, Efrati wrote that Google in particular wants more sophisticated camera processing, enabling features such as faster photo capture and the ability to constantly record the environment, sending images and video to Google for cloud-based analysis.

Google also wants more onboard processor memory, and an improved motion processor like Apple's M9, which allows for power efficient monitoring of sensors and "always on" Siri. The company is also said to be wanting to add in infrared sensors to measure distance.

One obstacle to the plan, as noted by Efrati: "Profit margins of Android handset brands are already severely pressured, so that can be a tough sell when the less-powerful chips are good enough.""Profit margins of Android handset brands are already severely pressured, so that can be a tough sell when the less-powerful chips are good enough" -Amir Efrati

Google's hopes to turn chipmakers into commodity producers is also an aggressive concept. "Persuading chip makers to use designs put forward by Google seems like a long shot to people in that industry," the report noted.

"The top vendors, such as Qualcomm and MediaTek, are likely to value their own technology over IP developed by others, either because they make money from licensing their own tech; they don't want to depend on a third party like Google; or they wouldn't want to churn out a product that might be identical to one that's produced by other Google partners."

Any attempts by Google to control chipmakers and dictate its own designs may also expand the scope of its current antitrust investigations, both in the U.S. and in Europe.

Google has faced partner opposition to its strategies before, including plans to subvert MPEG H.264 and H.265 standards with its own WebM/VP8 and VP9 video codecs.

The failure of Android One

Last year, Google's new chief executive Sundar Pichai outlined Android One, his signature new strategy targeting the emerging Indian market, aimed at creating low cost but high quality phones running a new standardized Android reference platform for "the next billion users."


Sundar Pichai outlining Android One


Working with partners, Google was able to design a functional $100 product running the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow. However, as noted by Ars Android specialist Ron Amadeo, "the program was a commercial flop."

"Google started with online-only sales for three months, which angered local retailers," he noted. "This also cut Android One off from customers, since most phones in India are sold in small shops. Google's control over the program angered OEMs, who would rather pick from a wide variety of components and vendors to maximize profit.

"As a result, OEMs don't advertise the devices (though Google does) and don't care too much about selling them. One Indian Android One OEM, Micromax, bailed on the program after two months and signed a deal with Cyanogen Inc."

Android nOne

While unpopular among partners, the restrictions in the Android One specification "are what made it good," Amadeo wrote.

"From the perspective of an OEM racing other OEMs to the bottom, the hardware needs to be as cheap as possible, performance be damned. The pack-in software is ad space to sell to the highest bidder to reclaim some margin, and updating the software after the sale is an unnecessary expense," he added, outlining why Android has so many problems it the first place.

Google is now relaxing its Android One specification, allowing OEMs "more freedom" in components, pricing and features.

A report by the Wall Street Journal cited one Indian phone maker executive as saying, "Google's new flexibility on Android One hardware requirements leaves little difference between the program and just producing regular Android phones."

In particular, Google has dropped requirements that originally stated that Android One phones would get timely software updates directly from Google, similar to how Apple rolls out iOS updates to all iPhone users. Instead, Android One phones will continue to get software updates through their OEM.

That status quo has played a big part in preventing most Android users from being able to upgrade to the latest version of Android even a year after it reaches the market, and has prevented Google from being able to patch most of its users from serious security failures in a reasonable time frame, resulting in what civil liberty proponents have deemed a "digital security divide".
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 108
    Who cares! One man's meat another's poison! Android and Google can sink to the bottom.
  • Reply 2 of 108
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,702member

    A confidential photo taken from that phone call...



  • Reply 3 of 108
    jason98jason98 Posts: 764member
    sog35 wrote: »
    Not. Going. To. Happen.

    Why the hell would they 'partner' with Google who is constantly stabbing them in the back?

    Because Google is the only reason why they are still alive?
  • Reply 4 of 108
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
  • Reply 5 of 108
    Hahaa! Such belligerent fanboy-ism. It's just like Fox News tactics- if you state an opinion as if it's an established fact, then approximately 46% of people will just assume it is true. "Google hopes to one day be able to compete with Apple's processors, but it's a long shot" "Android wants to be more like Apple". Who and where are these Android users who wish their crappy gear was more like an iPhone? This is a phenomenon never, ever spoken of, because it does not exist. If you want to publish biased media, at least be a bit more discreet about it instead of appealing to the basest, most childish human emotions and ignoring every rule of critical thinking! I'm not saying this to Apple users, if you like having an iPhone there's nothing wrong or inferior about that- it's preference. I assure you having top-end Android phones has been a great experience for me, I never envied or felt anger over something so silly. My problem is with this ridiculous piece of demagoguery and imaginary facts. And come on man... Busting out the tired old Android security issues that no one has had since 2.0?! I feel like Glenn Beck himself wrote this piece.
  • Reply 6 of 108
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,985member
    jason98 wrote: »
    sog35 wrote: »
    Not. Going. To. Happen.

    Why the hell would they 'partner' with Google who is constantly stabbing them in the back?

    Because Google is the only reason why they are still alive?

    Barely, but nonetheless alive.
  • Reply 7 of 108
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,117member
    sog35 wrote: »
    Not. Going. To. Happen.

    Why the hell would they 'partner' with Google who is constantly stabbing them in the back?
    Who are "they" and how is Google constantly stabbing them in the back? You could be right but it's unclear who and what you're talking about.
  • Reply 8 of 108
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,318member

    I don’t believe a word of this. This is not Google’s M.O.

  • Reply 9 of 108

    I'm starting to suspect that it's actually Google and not AI that contributes to DED's financial bottom line. This is the fourth article regarding Google he's written in nearly as many days and as they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity...

  • Reply 10 of 108
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Google's hopes to turn chipmakers into commodity producers is also an aggressive concept. "Persuading chip makers to use designs put forward by Google seems like a long shot to people in that industry," the report noted.



    "The top vendors, such as Qualcomm and MediaTek, are likely to value their own technology over IP developed by others, either because they make money from licensing their own tech; they don't want to depend on a third party like Google; or they wouldn't want to churn out a product that might be identical to one that's produced by other Google partners."



    Any attempts by Google to control chipmakers and dictate its own designs may also expand the scope of its current antitrust investigations, both in the U.S. and in Europe.

    For some reason this makes no sense to me. Am I missing something? When did Qualcomm and MediaTek start fabbing their own chips? Aren't they both fabless chip designers? They design chips but don't actually make them. Apple also designs chips but does not make them either.

     

    Both chip makers and chip designers are dealing with a commodity product already. Chips and their designs have been commodities for decades. If one chip or design is not working out, you switch to another chip design. There are tons of chips and designs to interchange for all manner of uses and price points.

     

    If Google wanted to compete with what Apple is doing then they don't need either Qualcomm or MediaTek. For Google to compete with what Apple is doing they would need to hire a 1000 engineers, license the latest ARM or other designs they might need, customize as they see fit and then have the chips fabbed by TSMC, Samsung, Global Foundries, or whoever.

     

    From Qualcomm or MediaTek's point of view, if your customer tells you (dictates) what they want and need for their products, how is that violating anti-trust? Qualcomm could either make some money designing/licensing what Google wants and needs or make little to no money if Google decides to roll their own like Apple is doing. Apple isn't violating anything by designing their own chips and having someone else fab them. I don't see why Google somehow would be.

     

    If any of this is indeed true, I could see Google working with a third party chip designer to specify the ARM or other designs they are looking for. Then have the designs taped down and sent to the fab. Seems pretty reasonable and straightforward to me. 

     

    Regardless the chips need to be fabbed by someone like TSMC or Samsung. Now those are two companies it seems nobody can live without these days.

  • Reply 11 of 108
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lord Amhran View Post

     

    I'm starting to suspect that it's actually Google and not AI that contributes to DED's financial bottom line. This is the fourth article regarding Google he's written in nearly as many days and as they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity...




    Never takes long for someone to want to bring up Al and DED... as opposed to actually commenting on the substance of the article.

     

    Edit:  How many mobile operating systems of much relevance are there out there for there to be articles written about?  Would you like to suggest an alternative?

  • Reply 12 of 108
    It has nothing to do with the feasibility but have everything to do with raising the PPS of GOOG and bringing down or stagnating AAPL PPS. Now they can hang this as a cloud over AAPL for the next two years.
  • Reply 13 of 108
    But but but Exynos...octo core, 3G of RAM, benchmarks, blah blah...

    I thought Google was winning...
  • Reply 14 of 108
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,980member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

     

    Not. Going. To. Happen.

     

    Why the hell would they 'partner' with Google who is constantly stabbing them in the back?




    there's always someone deserving Google on this: Huawei.

  • Reply 15 of 108

    Google is evil.

    They are just looking for a partner to stab in the back.

     

    Why don't they form their own CPU team?

  • Reply 16 of 108
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post

     

    Google is evil.

    They are just looking for a partner to stab in the back.

     

    Why don't they form their own CPU team?


     

    Considering, someone like Samsung with actual hell of a lot of hardware experience is not even close to matching the A9, I think this rumor is beyond crazy. Who the hell will design this crap? Only one desperate enough would maybe be AMD. Apple should buy AMD just for that even if it is to shut it down...

  • Reply 17 of 108
    But but but Exynos...octo core, 3G of RAM, benchmarks, blah blah...

    I thought Google was winning...
    Lol. You're right. Lol.
  • Reply 18 of 108
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post



    But but but Exynos...octo core, 3G of RAM, benchmarks, blah blah...

     

    Samsung's Exynos 7420 was the most powerful phone SoC on the market when it launched in early 2015. 

     

    Apple's A9 now holds that title, but I'm sure the cycle will continue.

  • Reply 19 of 108
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post

     

    Google is evil.

    They are just looking for a partner to stab in the back.

     

    Why don't they form their own CPU team?


     

    Ironic if they did that. Vertical integration is Apple's game. Google is all about free software and free-to-use web services, just sign in to your Google+ account and agree to our terms & conditions.

  • Reply 20 of 108
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,624member



    If what the article reports is true, then Google doesn't even understand the business model that they set up for Android.

     

    Why would any of the Android manufacturers contribute to develop a CPU design that would be shared with other Android manufacturers? They'll still be in the same old race to the bottom selling barely profitable interchangeable Android phones except that they're poorer by the X million dollars that they contributed to develop the CPU.

     

    The people running Google aren't that stupid, are they?

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