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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

The $2.9 billion sell-off of Motorola was announced four days later. In that deal, Google retains the vast majority of the patents it gained in acquiring Motorola for $12.5 billion two years earlier, and gives Lenovo 2,000 patent assets — an indication of the balancing act Google must perform to show Lenovo it is valued in the Android ecosystem. Google received 24,500 patents on technologies for smartphones, handsets and mobile standards, among other things, when it acquired Motorola.

Narcotta doesn't believe Magazine UX will disappear as a result of the new Google-Samsung relationship. But the UI will appear "in the wild" at the same time that Samsung's support for it "quickly dwindles," he said. "The likelihood of it showing up on future Samsung devices is small now that Samsung has more certainty that Google is not grooming Motorola as a competitor."

Remnants of Samsung's earlier reaction to Google's ownership of Motorola will linger, however. Touchwiz, the Samsung UI that runs over stock Android, will continue as a major part of Samsung's Android strategy, Narcotta believes. Samsung will want to retain the UI as a differentiator from Lenovo and competitors.

Still, Samsung will demonstrate "less aggressive customization," Narcotta said, predicting that the Galaxy S5 smartphone, expected to be launched in late February at Mobile World Congress, will be customized to a lesser degree now that Google is not competing directly with Samsung. "The UI at the Galaxy S4's launch in March 2013 was a bold move by Samsung, essentially saying 'this is a Samsung phone, not a Google phone,' " he and other analysts noted at the time.

With Motorola out at Google and with Google and Samsung working more harmoniously, there can be little doubt that Samsung's Tizen initiative will be used as a niche operating system, offered as the OS in handsets in emerging markets such as India or southeast Asia. Narcotta said Tizen will be a bridge for feature phone customers who want to move to their first smartphone, but a less expensive one. Other analysts expect Samsung to pull back slightly from Tizen.

The future of the pure Android Nexus phones that Google offered is in doubt, Narcotta said. "Nexus devices are a showcase for the capabilities and features of the stock version of Android, [and] Samsung could easily become the manufacturer for all Nexus or Nexus-like devices" thus becoming the proponent for the pure, no-frills, Android experience for customers.

Google is highly motivated to promote pure Android or a Samsung version of Android with few alterations, especially when compared to smaller Android device makers, primarily those based in China and Asia that work with forked, or modified, versions of Android that don't support Google services or work with Android apps in the Google Play store.


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