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Google and Samsung grow cozier with patent deal, Motorola sale

Matt Hamblen | Feb. 3, 2014
Samsung will hold onto its TouchWiz skin, but its new Magazine UX will quickly dwindle

Google and Samsung have grown closer over the past week following Google's sale of Motorola to Lenovo and a 10-year global patent cross-license agreement signed by the tech giants.

While not exactly kissing cousins, Samsung and Google are set to evolve into much closer technology partners in smartphones, tablets, wearables and emerging tech areas.

"I think that Samsung and Google realized that they should stick to what they are good at and work together," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Kantar WorldPanel.

Stripping off the Motorola division at Google in a $2.9 billion deal with Lenovo will remove concerns that held by Samsung and other Android licensees that Google would favor Motorola. Since Samsung is by far the largest maker of Android smartphones and tablets globally, it was important for Google to find ways to show it was not favoring Motorola with early innovation insights.

"I believe there are bigger [innovations] afoot now that Google and Samsung have buried the hatchet," said Jack Narcotta, an analyst at Technology Business Research. "With Google now back in its groove as curator of Android -— divesting itself of that pesky hardware [at Motorola] that caused friction between it and Samsung — we believe that Samsung will tweak Android less, reducing the focus on the Samsung apps and services in future iterations of Galaxy smartphones."

Samsung made several changes to its Android mobile devices to separate them from Google and Motorola's. These changes included replacing the Google Chrome browser with Samsung's default Internet browser, using Samsung's ChatOn instead of Google Hangouts, and converting Google's Voice Search into Samsung's S Voice and Google Wallet into Samsung Wallet, Narcotta noted.

"Samsung was focused on copying every Google mobile app available, primarily in efforts to boost its appeal to users, but also as a reaction to the Motorola purchase," he added.

Samsung remains wary of Google's control over the Android OS used in Samsung's devices, but with Google out of the handset business, Samsung can focus on helping Android proliferate instead of "seeking to strike out on its own," Narcotta said.

With their new relationship, Narcotta said Samsung is marshal of the Android army, while Google is the central command center for Android.

A recent report in Re/code said Google executives were dismayed to see a new Samsung tablet user interface called Magazine UX at the International CES trade show in early January. The new interface represented another departure from Google's vision for Android.

That disagreement led to a set of broad agreements that Samsung and Google worked on together, resulting in the sweeping 10-year patent deal reported Sunday as a means of reducing the potential for patent litigation and putting the focus on innovation. In a statement the next day, the companies said they will each gain access to the other's industry-leading patent portfolios, "paving the way for deeper collaboration on research and development of current and future products and technologies."


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