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Google Experimenting with Bringing AOSP to the Sony Xperia S

For years there has been a battle between AOSP fans and manufacturers to hack vanilla Android (or something close to it like CyanogenMod) onto devices instead of the manufacturer’s version of Android. The difficulty with this battle is that it takes a tremendous amount of work to get another ROM working on a device. A developer cannot simply take AOSP Android and load it onto a device because stock Android is actually designed to run on a specific device (currently the Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, or Nexus 7).

Jean-Baptiste Queru, the technical head of the Android Open Source Project, wants to experiment with how AOSP works. Starting with the Xperia S, Queru has invited the community to experiment with porting AOSP to the device. “In theory, AOSP is designed such that it should be possible to plug in the files related to additional hardware targets,” said Queru in a Google Groups post. “In practice, that has never happened.” 

According to Queru, “The short-term goal is to investigate the difference between theory and practice, on a favorable real-world example, and to see whether the result is worth the effort. The long-term goal is to try to eliminate whatever hurdles we find, both the expected and the unexpected ones.” Members of the CyanogenMod team have already stepped up to help with the project and rumor has it that Sony may be working to open source the drivers needed for the project.

This experiment immediately had me thinking about the possibility of Google expanding the Nexus lineup with manufacturers that are willing to work with Google to support AOSP. Perhaps Google’s rumored expansion of the Nexus lineup will look something like this, where flagship devices are released with the OEM’s take on Android and the option to install stock Android straight from Google or to buy the device stock from Google.

The question is, why would Google pursue this vision? Queru claims this is just an experiment to see if it is worth the effort to port AOSP to other devices, but I can’t help wondering if Google plans to use this experiment to further expand the number of devices running their version of Android. Will this be how Google begins to expand the Nexus program?

Via:  Google Groups | The Verge | NeoWin

  • Hannah Martin

    I recently got my Sony Xperia S after checking out this review http://search4reviews.net/ very pleased with the phone, ticks all my boxes-

  • mikeym0p

    They should start this with VZW’s Toro as well!!

  • NicholasMicallef

    Remember the rumours about 5 nexus devices? could it be that what rumours meant was that Google is aiming to give 1 flagship device from 5 different manufacturers this treatment after checking how this one works out?

  • NathanDomier

    I was planning on buying an SGSIII in the near future, but if you could get the Xperia S with AOSP JB on it, I’d buy it instead.

  • George264

    This is great. Like let’s say HTC phones ALWAYS come with Sense, but if you know what you’re doing and want stock, you shouldn’t have to wait for someone to do it or do it yourself. It should be super simple, go to the Android website, download a file, and install it like you’re installing an apk. Done. Then, since you are verified as an advanced user, when you boot you get to chose one of the software as default or just dual-boot at all times. And people who are running AOSP on their phones, should keep getting instant updates.
    That. Is my utopia. Suck it Apple.

    • PhillipCun

      OR better branding structure. Like “One X powered by HTC Sense” and “Galaxy S3 powered by Samsung TouchWiz” then “Nexus powered by Google”

      • George264

        Lol I like how we both replied to each other at the same time. Anyways yeah I think that would be good, but I want to be able to get a cool looking phone(HTC) and still get stock. Like I don’t have to wait for Google to come out with one phone each year that’s still lackluster.

  • PhillipCun

    When the OG Droid came out I THOUGHT this was what Google wanted to take android. Phones that said “Powered by Google” would run AOSP, but that wasn’t the case. But that was years ago when Google wasn’t sure if Android would be a primary focus, now that has changed. The world is evolving and Androids are still scary to consumers. Consumers love the Galaxy line up because Samsung did a great job branding their phones and the experiences with those phones. People buy it because its a Galaxy phone which has a reputation. They can easily identify that a Samsung Galaxy device is a good device. Android doesn’t mean much to consumers, and Google needs to know how to market their OS.

    In my opinion, this is the right step if they want to keep it open source and create a standard for the market. I think the Nexus program needs to head into a more mainstream direction and set market standards. Only certain devices with specific hardware requirements should have the Nexus branding. This will help create a name for Nexus to the consumers and with that branding a certain experience that people can expect. Consumers these days don’t want to research about phones. All these talks about TouchWiz, AOSP, and Sense will only confuse the consumer. Google needs to make it simple.

    • George264

      that is true. very true. My friend who was looking to buy a phone on T-Mo last year wanted a smartphone. I told him to get a Sensation. He was skeptical, he said he wanted a “Samsung Galaxy”. He was about to get the Exhibit or the S4G! Thank god I stopped him and made him buy the Sensation, he is now happily running ICS for months. But this is coming from a person who knew NOTHING about smartphones and he just knew about the Galaxy line. Pretty cool. Guess Samsung ripping off the apples paid off.

      • PhillipCun

        Branding isn’t something they ripped off. Large companies like Samsung has a lot more money to spend on marketing and advertising agencies. They develop smarter and advertise better because they can afford it. I work at an advertising agency and anyone in advertising would agree; Samsung marketed smarter than other Android manufacturers. Verizon marketed the “Droid” line up, but IMO they did an OK job. HTC now has a “One” line up which was also inspired by Samsung’s Galaxy line up. Samsung did it right, now HTC is trying to catch up.

  • master94

    I hope this is a sign of a Sony built Nexus. Big fan of their design.

  • http://twitter.com/fritzo2162 DougZ

    Something weird is going on. I’m actually starting to like things that SONY and Microsoft are doing. Their Xperia line is looking sex-ay.

  • AGreenV5

    I don’t care why they chose to do this. The implications are huge for us all. The limiting factor will be getting the necessary open source drivers for the hardware.

  • JetBlue

    Anybody else see where OEMs will disagree with this since they wouldn’t be able to put on their skins?

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      This isn’t being mandated or anything. Sony is working with Google on the Project would be interesting to see how it turns out.

  • r0lct

    It would be great if the initial splash screen going for non-Nexus phones was:

    Please choose how you would like your device to run:
    1) As the OEM intended to make more money off of you with bloat and bastardize the UI for the sake of differentiation.

    2) As Google intended, use your phone the way you want and be free to customize how you want

    • JetBlue

      Or 3) Pick and choose certain options from both and have some cool features that stock Android doesn’t have.

      • r0lct

        In a (my?) perfect world you would get AOSP and all the carrier stuff would just be removable apk’s consisting of apps/laucnhers/icon pack/etc. That would be the best of both in my eyes. If the OEM customization needs system access then certainly let it be pre-installed, but removable.

        • michael arazan

          That would make a great app, just a check list of things you want loaded or want turned off, like at system startups. Call it “Android Buffet” take what you want, leave the rest.

  • http://twitter.com/eatmode4life Ray Mendoza

    This is awesome. I would kill for some AOSP on Sony hardware. It just needs to come to VZW as well. The Arc was a beautiful piece of hardware and really had me thinking about jumping carriers, but unlimited data is a necessity now.

    • Daniel Maginnis

      the only possibility of this ever happening is after VZW is completely switched over to LTE. that’s probably years off. but i do agree. i’d love to have an experia on VZW.

  • Butters619

    Oh please Google do this! I have been hoping for years that you would design drivers so AOSP Android could work on other devices. It would be amazing. And it would also allow manufacturers to get the newest Android flavor on to handsets much faster. It would be great for the entire Android ecosystem!