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What's Next for Android: Google's New Hardware Strategy

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For the last few years, Google (GOOG - Get Report) has rolled out a new version of Android every year. There is no reason to believe 2013 will be an exception. Android 5.0, aka "Key Lime Pie," will replace Android 4.2, aka "Jelly Bean," this year.

I have no idea what Android 5.0 will contain in terms of new features, but whatever it is, it should bring new a new software cohesiveness to all the major Android use cases: smartphones, tablets and Google TV. Google NOW, introduced last June, could take center stage, especially on the smartphone.

As interesting as the software always is, 2013 looks like it will be Google's epic year for a new hardware strategy. Often overlooked, Google now has an unprecedented overlapping set of hardware strategies that will unfold in concert for the first time in 2013.

Let's list Google's unique hardware arsenal:

1. Regular Android Builders:

This is, and has been, the dominant share of Android, over 90% of Android today. Companies such as Samsung, HTC, Huawei, ZTE and Sony (SNE) -- just to mention the tip of the iceberg -- make their own individual modifications to Android and sell them as such to the operators.

2. Nexus:

Essentially since the beginning (2008-2010 or so), Google has worked with various hardware partners who are also all part of category 1 above, to produce one or two reference devices every year. Until recently, these were not prominently marketed, and bought mostly by developers and extreme enthusiasts.

More recently, especially after Google got its online store together, sales of Nexus broadened beyond developers and enthusiasts. Then again, the ranks of developers and enthusiasts have swelled with the overall size of Android's market share.

Last year, Jelly Bean 4.1 launched on the Asus Nexus 7 tablet as the freshest Nexus reference hardware. This year, one can envision that Android 5.0 could arrive on Nexus devices in all three current sizes -- or even more -- such as smartphone, 7-inch tablet and 10-inch tablet.

Who will make the various new Nexus hardware devices this summer? My bets are on HTC, Samsung, LG and Asus.

3. Motorola:

Last summer, Google's acquisition of Motorola had just closed and Chicago was in no position to lead with a cutting-edge Android device that quickly, in time for Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This year, however, a year will have passed since Google closed the acquisition of Motorola. Will this be enough?
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