back to article How Google's Android Silver could become 'Wintel for phones'

In the 1990s, Intel and Microsoft dominated the "open" PC standard – and it appears that Google now wants to do the same for its Android system, via its Silver programme. Silver has yet to be announced, but industry sources have confirmed the details to us. While the comparison between Google today and Wintel then isn’t …


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  1. Number6

    No Problem

    We'll be OK. Remember their motto is "Do No Evil".

    1. fnusnu

      Re: No Problem

      "Don't be evil"

      Big difference.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No Problem

      No. It is "Don't be evil".

      Sorry, a pet peeve of mine.

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: No Problem

        Evil is as evil does

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No Problem

      All they need is lots of Viruses and Malware for Android and it will be just like the Wintel of old. Oh, wait...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No Problem

      Define Evil, it's a question of semantics.

      Hitler / Stalin / Pol Pot all probably thought they were doing the right thing.

    5. JDX Gold badge

      Re: No Problem

      I'd love to hear exactly what part of giving away free OS which companies have used to make $billions is evil.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's nothing stopping HTC or Samsung from developing their own Android branch.Google is throwing the dice on developing a tune the others will dance to. The others can always write their own if financially viable.

    I have an HTC One and love it. It's running a Cyanogen release and works like a dream.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Google control the Play store. So I think Google have them by the balls. Even Samsung.

      Well that's not totally true. But it would take a lot of work to get the same variety of apps out there - even for an Android fork. I don't know what tools Amazon have made available - but they've only got 20% of Android apps on there. After several years and very decent market share. And I'm not sure any of the mobile manufacturers are up to getting the software, store and developer stuff all sorted at the same time.

      Look at what's happened to Microsoft and Blackberry. And I think a large component of that is lack of apps. Both the phone OSes are nice.

      The place you can do well despite a lack of apps, is at the bottom end. The sub £150 smartphones. But there's almost no profit to be had there. All the cash is at the top end. People paying £30 a month plus for their calls (and hire-purchase on the handset), those people want apps. The latest and shiniest apps.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >There's nothing stopping HTC or Samsung from developing their own Android branch.

      There isn't a hard barrier preventing Samsung et al forking Android, but there are some hurdles:

      1. The Google Play app store. If you fork Android, you can't use the Google app store.

      2. Google Play Services libraries. Again, you can't use these if you fork Android. They are Google's propriety code, for things like location and in-app purchases. Google have been actively persuading 3rd party app developers to use these proprietary libraries.

      3. If you fork Android you can't use the Gmail Client, Google Translate, Google Calendar and Google Maps apps, amongst others. You might note that these are the very apps that Samsung has its own equivalents for - hence the apparent duplication of functionality on Galaxy devices.

      4. If a hardware vendor releases a device with an Android fork, Google prohibit it from also releasing a Google Android device. i.e, hardware makers can't hedge their bets in this regard, or dip a toe in a forked pool.

      The above points indicate why Samsung have duplicate apps, and why Amazon had to reach out to a obscure manufacturer for their forked Android tablets.

      Android hardware makers could cooperate on making a fork, but that wouldn't give them an advantage other each other, either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Errrr? But????

        Isn't that a walled garden? Well at least a privet gedged garden.

        Go fork Android and s far as Google are converned, you are a pariah. They don't care about any loss of revenue from not letting these forks use the Play Store.

        Different layout of the playing field but still a walled garden in my book.

      2. Scott 1

        No, but it might put Google in their place (if all the hardware manufacturers participate). Of course, corporate politics and the "tragedy of the commons" being as they are, this is very doubtful.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So just to clarify,,,

    Google currently get criticised for update times (even though their Nexus phones are the first to get the updates, and it's actually the manufacturers and carriers at fault), yet when they try and do something about it, that's wrong too...

    OK then....

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: So just to clarify,,,

      Does this piece criticise Google?

      I read it more as a warning. There are big pros to having one company set the standard. You get interoperability, a drop in costs, simplicity, a chance of believable roadmaps.

      There are also some pretty big possible cons. The risk of predatory monopoly, and the loss of interesting innovation being the two biggies. Also the fact that you're totally reliant on one company, who might cock everything up.

      1. Vector

        Re: So just to clarify,,,

        "...a chance of believable roadmaps."

        Um...tell that to Apple.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So just to clarify,,,

          Where have Apple's roadmaps turned out to have been a lie? For what Apple has announced, that is, not for what rumors say they're going to do that they later don't?

    2. fuzzie

      Re: So just to clarify,,,

      Quick updates is just part of the bigger picture.

      As I understand, the base firmware (which includes the kernel, HAL and such) also includes all the baseband software. That has to be certified by various regulators before it can be released. Since Google only releases Nexus in a very few markets (US/EU?), certification for them can be relatively quick. Not so for other OEMs who are global players. If I "import" a Nexus device for local use I'm technically breaking the local law since the device has not been certified by the local regulator.

      The other concerns from many corners are that Android has been sold as being Open Source/anyone can contribute/rising tide raises all boats/foster innovation and (at least the spirit of) that undertaking has been substantially eroded.

      1. Glen Turner 666

        Re: So just to clarify,,,

        The certification is for the phone, not for the standalone software or hardware. It is just paperwork: multiple presentations of the one set of tests conducted by the phone manufacturer. If you import a device then you ask the manufacturer for their test pack and munge it into the format expected by the local regulator.

  4. a_milan

    It should be noted...

    ...a part from HTC, no other vendor actually improved on stock Android.

    Add operator pressure, awful software bundles, and typically no updates within phone's lifetime, and Silver starts looking like a real good deal.

    Apart from HTC, again, but it didn't pay off to them...

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Vector

        Re: It should be noted...

        "And you get to walk round with the free Google dick in your arse at all times...:

        If you have GApps (Play Store, Gmail, etc.) you've got that already. Silver won't change that.

      2. M Gale

        Re: It should be noted...

        And you get to walk round with the free Google dick in your arse at all times,

        As opposed to Apple's giant boner, or Microsoft giving you the email-inspection shafting and not even having the courtesy to give you a reach-around?

        And you pay good money for those options.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It should be noted...

          "Microsoft giving you the email-inspection shafting and not even having the courtesy to give you a reach-around"

          Microsoft don't inspect your email normally. Only Google do that all the time - and target adverts at you based on the content...

          1. M Gale

            Re: It should be noted...

            Microsoft don't inspect your email normally. Only Google do that all the time - and target adverts at you based on the content...

            Woo, so some algorithm spots the word "baling twine" and I spend the next two weeks getting Amazon adverts for baling twine via Google's Adwords partners. This is a problem?

            So much more invasive than someone manually poring over your emails. Seriously, if you think they aren't all at the Big Data game, you're blind. Google are just up front and honest about it, and seem to get all the bad press and smear campaigns, too.

            If you want to worry about Google's advertbots analyzing keywords, then do also worry about Microsoft, Apple, Valve, Oracle, RIM, Amazon, Yahoo, in fact just about any company with any kind of online presence and probably most of those that still exist without one.

            Your data is worth money. Business is about money. Microsoft. Apple, Oracle, RIM, Valve, Amazon, Yahoo, Facebook... all businesses. All with access to masses of customer and other user data. All with access to a resource that can positively impact their bottom line. Do the math.

  5. hammarbtyp

    HTC is not the target

    While HTC maybe be a casualty, Google's real target are Nokia and Amazon who are forking android and selling their own services through it.

    I think Google will be happy as long as the phone uses the Google services for things like apps, emails and browsing. It is after all primarily an advertising company

  6. Buzzword

    This is evolution 101.

    This always happens as technology advances. When the first cars where being made, there were tens of thousands of companies in Britain alone making cars, engines, gearboxes, seats, bodies, custom paint jobs, and the rest. Today we're reduced to a handful of global giants. The same happened in pharma, it happened a bit in banking post-2008, and now it's happening in mobiles. I daresay Chromecast is eating all the competing TV dongles too.

  7. Lamont Cranston

    Silver-certified handsets for the wealthy (fighting it out with Apple),

    Cyanogenmod-certified handsets for the techie. Nokia can probably pick-up the remainder (poor people and non-conformists need phones too!).

    Sounds OK to me, particularly the part that promises death to the Android overlays.

    Not hard to imagine it all going catastrophically wrong, though.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Manufacturer (Or vendor) specific skins?

    You mean the crap I ripped off almost every phone I have ever owned? If the stuff is REALLY any good, then why not offer it as an add-on that people will flock to get.

    They will flock , wont they? After all, Its not REALLY crap. that's just my imagination.

  9. John 104

    Nice article.

    However, this isn't the 90's and what Google will end up with is another variant of their Nexus line. Some will buy it while the rest of the world + dog will continue to buy what they see in the mob store of their choice. If carriers don't pick these things up, then they won't sell. Period. The introduction of Silver and the theories stated here forget the deep relation that mob carriers have with manufacturers. These guys want their value add software on the phones to tie customers to their services for long periods of time. Introducing a clean Google version of software that is already Google, but without the carrier bits is going to turn them off (the carriers), leaving this one for sale on the Google store only.

    Not to mention, Google is becoming less and less popular as people become aware of how much of their daily lives they are sucking into their marketing machine. I can't see the public welcoming a pure Google experience with open arms at this point in the game.

    1. Uncle Ron

      I'm not an Android expert: How difficult for Google to create a package that lets you wipe your bloated carrier OS and install Silver nice and clean? I'd love to get rid of multiple crappy HTC/Sprint apps. Would it be that easy for the carrier to disable your ability to do this?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As long as it is optional. The tablet I have has a nice (though I quickly note OPTIONAL and freely available to anyone in the Play Store) Android folder/file browser. Not all supplied apps need to be horrid... :)

        Personally I think those dreadful apps that suppliers install are to bait and switch, data glean after the sale and give you reason to want an "upgrade" path away from them. :P

    2. king of foo

      carriers got too greedy

      24 month contracts are now the norm

      The nexus line represented a real option for those of us that use WiFi more than data+voice. Suddenly everything is cheaper when you buy the hardware and the "service" separately.

      I wonder... how soon will it be before we have blanket WiFi access/similar alternative and no longer NEED a mobile phone company to connect?

      I'm hoping Google keep on evolving and make some waves re ISP/VOIP

      The money I've wasted on contracts with unused minutes just to get a nice phone over the years...

  10. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Sony like Samsung?

    Sony's Android changes are quite minimal and usually add instead of duplicate. If Google were to get stroppy about e.g. the Walkman or Album apps or their launcher or widgets it would be a shame.

    Samsung Android changes resemble some cross between a mobile operating system and a horrific kitchen sink.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Sony like Samsung?

      I can't comment on Sony's software, having not played with any of their kit in a while. But I can comment on Samsung.

      My friend has a Galaxy Note II, on my advice. A brilliant piece of kit... but...

      Oh the software, oh the horror, the pain, the duplication... erk!

      I believe I saw on a review that there were 247 options to choose from. The menu is huge. And has many sub-menus. It took me 3 hours to set the thing up (there's no way my mate could have done it). I admit it's my first 'Droid in a couple of years, but all I was doing was syching to the cloud Exchange server and downloading his photos. And going through page, after page, of menus. With crap defaults. Wonderful geek toy though.

      Anyway, my real complaint is that not only have Samsung duplicated all of Google's software, but they're no duplicating their own! In their last update, they took away his program for making sketches on photos (the reason I recoommended the damn thing to him). Bastards! I hate updates that remove software. So I was called in to try and fix it.

      It's OK though. They took away the software that allows photos to be exported to the sketch app. But they have 2 other apps, that do similar things. It's just it takes about 5 clicks to get into one, and 7 or 8 for the other!

      Kudos to them for bringing back the stylus though. Shame their idea of innovation seems to be to ship every feature currently in R&D - then hope for the best.

  11. El Andy

    Is it just me or does "Silver Standard" kind of sound like the lower quality option?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Is it just me or does "Silver Standard" kind of sound like the lower quality option?"

      They should have gone for silver-gilt.

      1. Martin Maloney

        "the lower quality option?"

        Are you trying to gilt-trip them?

    2. IR

      Built-in upgrade name. Like credit cards used to have. Next will be gold, then platinum, then diamond, then blue(?!), then something really weird.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Isn't there a risk that someone can get in their first, though? If Nokia next year go: "Hey, here's our Android Gold" device, or Amazon release an "Android Diamond range of tablets", what's to stop them?

        (Not that I think they would, just an amusing thought).

    3. Paul Shirley

      It leaves gold for nexus devices

  12. Adair Silver badge

    Who needs Android anyway?

    Sure, if you're in 'corporate drone' mode and forced to use what the man gives you, or you haven't a clue and just buy what the sales droid tells you, then Android (or the half eaten fruit thing) is likely to be your lot.

    OTOH, this isn't 1993. There's far more scope for diversity in the ecosystem today, if people want it. Conformity to Google's way is really only an issue to those who are striving to make a living in the mass market. For those willing/wanting to serve niche markets you can still be talking about thousands, even hundreds of thousands of users, and an archtecture that is wide open to being able to scratch their itch. And allow them that smug glow of satisfaction in knowing that they are not part of the Goopleopoly. [sorry].

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who needs Android anyway?

      So what non-Apple non-Android option are you trying to push?

      Windows Phone and Blackberry are the ultimate "corporate drone" products, so it can't be one of them. Is there anything else that has a share of more than 0.1% of the market??

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    misreading history ?

    If Intel had had its way we would all be using Itanium systems it was AMD's x86-64 bit chip which won that battle.

    1. Steve Knox

      Re: misreading history ?

      That battle was almost entirely server-side, as Intel never got the Itanuim down below workstation-level pricing.

      Besides, it was Intel's battle to lose. Y'know the x86 part of x86-64? Intel owns that. They lost that battle, but would have gone on to win the war either way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: misreading history ?

        "That battle was almost entirely server-side"

        Not really.

        Itanium was marketed, by Intel etc, as "industry standard 64bit computing". Intel had repeatedly told the world that x86-64 was not going to happen as it was simply not possible.

        Then AMD made AMD64, and the world quickly realised that IA64 was going to be yet another of Intel's failed attempts to succeed outside the world of legacy x86.

        1. M Gale

          Re: misreading history ?

          was not going to happen as it was simply not possible.

          I'm no chip designer, but I'd have figured anybody with an ounce of sense could have figured out this was marketing bullshit to promote their expensive new IA64 chips.

          But yes, AMD64, and the rest is history.

  14. chris 17 Silver badge

    How is silver different to stock Android?

    i thought Android manufacturers and carriers currently had their own overlays or builds on Android, which was one of the so called benefits to them. This just seems to be Google saying don't bother with your customisations, make your Androids plain vanilla like nexus and pay us some money for the privilege? I thought they could do that if they wanted anyway.

    CONFUSED as to how Silver will be any different to stock Android, or can manufacturers not currently roll out stock Android?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      You've got it the wrong way around

      It's "Use stock without any overlay changes and Google will pay some of your marketing costs"

      So not only do you spend less on R&D to create an (almost always) trashy interface overlay that most people dislike, you get some extra cash.

      Bad for the companies who were making a good overlay as they now have a hard choice to make, but good for everyone else as there is a direct incentive not to screw around with the interface.

    2. fuzzie

      Re: How is silver different to stock Android?

      Google will be offering the OEM design "guidelines" and there's the ~$1bn marketing push earmarked for Google Silver devices. Silver devices will get in-store kiosks (Genius Bar?) and direct support features (a la Amazon's Mayday?). A pretty good Faustian bargain to make if you're a niche OEM trying to get your presence/volumes up. If you're an established brand, you've just acquired a whole lot more competition supported by Google's marketing budget.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How is silver different to stock Android?

        A true carrier/OEM gets the marketing funds anyway. The others get what they think are funds towards marketing for accepting Googles guidelines.

        Following the guidelines might help or hinder consumers and manufactures, but the incentives are usually just repositioning of existing funds/resources.

        A bit like how you can get a 50% discount after the price has doubled twice over... or in this case, some money up front, for surrendering any possible app sales on your own brands app store.

  15. Uncle Ron


    Does anybody here feel as mystified as I do that Android apps regularly get permission to fully hack into my phone and tablet and slurp up any and all data--including the right to send e-mails to my contact lists without my knowledge? As the old querie goes, "Where's the outrage??

    Wintel would never have become Wintel if every Windows app I installed required me to accept spoofing and data grabbing as the price to use the app. I realize many of these apps are free but why do users not push back on these practices as being too steep a price to pay. Why isn't "Do No Evil" scoffed at more than it even is? What am I missing?

    1. Adam 1

      Re: Huh?

      Applications running as pleb users in windows, Mac and *nix still have read access to your personal files in my documents or home. They can all in default configuration establish outgoing collections and do whatever they want. The only difference between wintel land and the mobile space here is that if you want access to the APIs that return that data or establish those connections then you are forced to disclose it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Huh?

        "They can all in default configuration ..."

        Windows applications can in principle do the data slurping under Windows as you say.

        But on the whole they don't actually do it (and if they do, are they not likely to be quickly outed as malware?)

        Why does the same behaviour not apply to Android ?

        Once it does, then I may finally give up my Nokia Eseries. YMMV.

        1. Adam 1

          Re: Huh?

          > But on the whole they don't actually do it (and if they do, are they not likely to be quickly outed as malware?)

          Possibly, but it would be easy enough to hide if you truly cared. Many applications have legitimate reasons to contact the internet and you can't tell what is in an encrypted packet. Just google search for how many of your favourite freeware applications bundle OpenCandy into their installer. Now it is not necessarily spyware but it does look at what is installed on your computer and phones home so the boundary gets pretty blurred. And it gets installed with everything from uTorrent, Daemon tools, Foxit Reader and PDFCreator. It is nearly impossible to install an application these days without some hidden checkbox in some screen on your installer that installed some ask toolbar.

          And diagnosed by Malware by whom? Seriously most AV companies are just as bad. Adobe tries to install McAfee whenever you update something.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Huh?

            "how many of your favourite freeware applications bundle OpenCandy into their installer."

            OpenCandy => app is disqualified. Used to use uTorrent (pre OpenCandy), haven't done for years. Don't need any of the others on Wikipedia's list either.

            "most AV companies are just as bad."

            Absolutely. Until recently I trusted MalwareBytes. Not sure what's happened in V2 - I'm currently reserving judgement.

            "[somejunk] tries to install [someotherjunk] whenever you update something."

            Far too much of that about. Where alternatives available to me, this kind of driveby downloads lead to instant disqualification. YMMV. If my employer's IT department don't care about these things then I'm not going to either (at work) but at home is a different thing.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Huh?

        Signed Mac apps are actually sandboxed now. You don't see the permission list but it's there. The idea is more to stop exploits on apps than malicious apps themselves though.

        You can also deny access by apps to contacts, location, etc...

    2. nematoad Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      "Does anybody here feel as mystified as I do that Android apps regularly get permission to fully hack into my phone and tablet and slurp up any and all data--"

      No, this after all something developed and propagated by "The Vampire Squid" aka Goldman Sachs, of the IT world.

      Come on, this is Google we're talking about. What did you expect? That the app devs wouldn't take their cue from the developer of the OS?

      Sauce for the goose etc.

  16. JLV

    Understatement of the year !

    >It isn’t really in Sony's DNA to create open platforms

  17. IGnatius T Foobar
    Thumb Up

    All Androids looking like Nexus == WIN

    After owning a G1 and then an SGS2 -- and eventually switching to CyanogenMod on each of them -- I've got to say that the Nexus 5 is a breath of fresh air. I've rooted the phone but I didn't have to change out the ROM because the stock one is clean, sensible, and free of crap.

    If the Silver program means that all Androids will look like this, then I say, bring it on!

  18. W. Anderson

    A very narrow and ill-informed, ignorant perspective

    The article author is apparently ignorant about "real world" developments taking place around the globe, with Mozilla FirefoxOS taking hold quickly in South America and parts of Eastern Europe, as well as the imminent release of Tizen Linux based phones in same jurisdictions and North America.

    Even the Ubuntu One has garnered commitments drom numerous manufacturers in other continents.

    Another factor is that Tizen is ultimately controlled by the Linux Foundation., an International power-house Not-for-Profit organization, thus attracting several handset manufacturers who, like primary Tizen sponsors Intel and Samsung , will not be governed like Google does with Android.

    It is critically important that technology writers, particularly those residing and focusing with a myopic view only in either USA or UK, learn about 'factually' what is taking place elsewhere.

  19. Rattus Rattus

    Sounds good to me. The biggest problem with Android on non Nexus branded devices is the layer of shite the manufacturer splatters over the top of vanilla Android. It has never improved a phone, only made them worse as well as caused delays in updating due to the need to test that each update doesn't break their shovelware. If a manufacturer wants to "differentiate" themselves, they should do it by making better hardware.

  20. Raydroid

    How does this affect patents and extortion by Microsoft/Apple?

    Doesn't Silver free vendors from patent claims while pointing all fingers to Google?

    Might this be a way of freeing Android of this financial and energy drag?

    1. Adam 1

      Re: How does this affect patents and extortion by Microsoft/Apple?

      Good point, at least on the software stack. Not going to stave off the rounded corner violations though.

    2. h4rm0ny

      Re: How does this affect patents and extortion by Microsoft/Apple?

      >>"Doesn't Silver free vendors from patent claims while pointing all fingers to Google?"

      I think so long as the OEMs are ultimately the ones charging money for the phones, they remain liable for the patent licensing costs. Any phones that Google produce and sell directly will obviously be liable, but I think doing it via subsidies and "managing production" lets them continue to pull the same clever maneouvre - making money off Android whilst others pay the cost for any patents it infringes.

  21. Raydroid

    Does Silver point MS/Apple patente extortion to Google?

    Is this an opportunity for vendors to free themselves from patent payouts while freeing the Android ecosystem of such corporate parasitism?

  22. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  23. scrubber


    No mention that what Intel did was highly illegal and has led to little to no competition in the x86 market since Core since AMD was illegally stopped from gaining market share and R&D funds for its superior Athlon processor over Intel's Netburst idiocy? Or that Microsoft was repeatedly referred to the competition authorities for anti-competitive practices and fined quite heavily?

  24. scrubber

    M9 on Amazon?

    They could opt for the Amazon fork and all Amazon would require in return was that they put the Amazon store on rather than Google Play. They might even gain access to LoveFilm which might be a nice little bonus.

  25. danny_0x98

    Imperfect Analogy: The Understated Disclaimer

    One difference between then and now: PC operating systems licensing was a business and Microsoft had a lock on the OEMs in that the applications the user already owned or would want were almost entirely written to DOS and then Windows. Applications for mobile these days are less expensive in absolute terms, let alone after adjusting for inflation. The key applications for browsing, Internet communications, telephony, and information are available for free. Many of the apps that tie into services use standard protocols, so the smartphone's os is abstracted away.

    Also OEMs saw the PC movie and may be more reluctant to cede differentiation to Google and plunge into a profit-eroding price war, though for many smartphone OEMs, there are no profits, so what do they have to lose? On the other hand, the profitable users, adapters, and forkers of Android made their money on the strength of their marketing and their brand's loyalty. Google merely gave them a means to address Apple's entry into phones and subsequent domination of the profits in the sector. For a crucial couple of years, Microsoft and its pre 7 mobile operating systems were useless in terms of competing with the iPhone.

  26. PerlyKing


    > a manufacturer going it alone might be a lot less quick to push out upgrades.

    This is sarcasm, right?

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