Google could be inviting more friends to Nexus party

Samsung Galaxy NexusGoogle (s goog) may be rethinking its Nexus Android strategy in a big way. It’s reportedly getting set to team up with multiple Android hardware partners to launch devices based on the next full version of Android, instead of picking one lucky vendor to be the “lead device” for a new generation of software, as it did last fall with Samsung and the Galaxy Nexus.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the new strategy will accompany the launch of Android 5.0–to be known as Jelly Bean, in keeping with Google’s sweet tooth for Android code names–and involves several Android vendors. Several devices, including both tablets and unlocked smartphones, will be sold directly through Google’s Web site and through some unnamed retail partners.

If this comes to pass, it has big ramifications for the Android community. For one thing, Android vendors have been very wary about Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola (s mmi), which is still languishing under review from Chinese authorities nearly nine months after it was first announced last August. The fear was that Google would look to promote Motorola’s hardware at the expense of other vendors, such as Samsung or HTC, but if Google is cutting everyone in on the lead device strategy, that concern becomes less important.

It’s also perhaps the most telling sign that Google has finally figured out that it needs to gain more control over Android software updates. Should Google be able to stimulate demand for unlocked phones and tablets not tied to wireless carriers, it would presumably be able to update those devices in a much more timely fashion than at present, when carrier concerns can hold up new software for weeks or months.

We’ll see what happens, but this could be a big development for the evolution of Android. Stay tuned.