Since Google took the wraps off of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the operating system that was once known for being bland and a little, shall we say, fugly quickly became the mobile operating system of the future. Not only because Google were finally taking better advantage of hardware but, because the Holo theme introduced with version 4.0 looked like something out of a Tron movie. Two versions later, and Android 4.2 still looks mostly the same – sure there have been tweaks and welcome additions but, side-by-side, Android 4.0 and Android 4.2 look very similar. Both still look pretty damn sweet, as well.
Of course, Android 4.0's look and feel presented the community with something new, stock Android now looked the part as well as being clean and in most cases a little bit faster. So, for a lot of us stock Android had a renewed place in our hearts and it presented us with something far better than the TouchWiz and Sense versions at the time. Thankfully, there is a brilliant and incredibly intelligent community of developers out there that take stock Android source code and bring to devices that would have otherwise never seen it. Most of us will be running some form of CyanogenMod ROM, ParanoidAndroid ROM or a build of AOKP. Personally, I run a build of AOKP on my HTC One X, purely because I never got on with Sense 4 and I have always preferred stock Android.
I'm no serial flasher either, the ROM I'm running on my One X has been there since March or so I'd say, and I very rarely update it. If it's running fast enough, and it's stable then I could really care less about fancy features from AOKP or ParanoidAndroid (although some work, such as Halo is incredible and well worth checking out). To get this build of Android on my phone, I had to unlock the bootloader, flash a custom recovery and then figure out which files I need. These aren't necessarily difficult tasks but, they're a step I would love not to have to do.
For me, the end goal is getting a stock build of Android. There was a question asked recently concerning whether or not I would pay for an Official build of stock Android for my device. Google have, themselves, sort of introduced a method to that effect with the Galaxy S4 and HTC One Google Editions. Both of which will be supported from Google and receive regular updates. Would I pay for another version of my device to get that device with stock Android – probably not.
Would I pay for a supported – by Google – build of stock Android on my device? That's a tough one, and I think it'd depend on price but, ultimately my answer would have to be no. Purely because of the hard-working devs that develop builds of Android for nothing, nothing but enjoyment that is. Those folks deserve my money more than Google do. The idea of having a supported version of Android is compelling though, however I feel this is something that Google should offer for nothing.
If you think about it, Google will have all the requisite drivers and some secret sauce to get most out of the device with stock Android. OEMs wouldn't be happy with such a thing, as it would tear down the work they put it into software such as Sense and TouchWiz but, what they have got to fear? 8/10 Android users don't care about stock Android, but those 2/10 will go and hunt down a stock build if they want it. Google could keep such a thing on the down low and it would make little to no difference to OEM's marketing strategies. In fact, if HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Sony et al agreed to something like that, they might just find their sales increase.