In “huge change”, Samsung to scale back its Android customizations, at Google’s request – report

January 29, 2014
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Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2

Samsung has reportedly agreed to scale back its Android customizations and to give Google’s media offerings a central place on its devices, as part of “broad agreements” between the two giants.

According to Re/code’s Liz Gannes and Ina Fried, Google and Samsung have begun discussing an agreement back at CES, following the launch of the Galaxy NotePRO and Galaxy TabPRO tablets, loaded with Magazine UX, a tile-based homescreen replacement. Google’s execs were reportedly “dismayed” by how radically Samsung departed from Google’s vision of Android with Magazine UX.

Check out Magazine UX in our hands-on from CES. The differences between it and the UI of stock Android are obvious:

Citing “multiple sources familiar with the companies’ thinking”, the report says Google coaxed Samsung to “consider dumping or altering the Magazine UX interface” for upcoming devices. It’s not known yet what Google had to concede in order for the Korean company to accept such a radical change of strategy. Update: The concession is probably offloading Motorola.

While details of the pact are fuzzy for now, its magnitude is reportedly momentous. One Re/code source calls it “a huge change, a sea change”.

“A huge change, a sea change”

Not only will Samsung give up promoting Magazine UX, but the company is also said to be culling some of its own media hubs and apps in favor of Google’s services. In other words, instead of duplicating Google’s offerings, Samsung will embrace Google’s apps and put them in the spotlight on its upcoming phones.

This is another change whose significance cannot be overstated – Samsung has long worked to give users alternatives to virtually all of Google’s main apps, from the app store, to the media apps, to stuff like S Voice and S Translate. While many users simply ignored them, Samsung insisted on stuffing its devices with these apps, which many industry watchers perceived as a way to hedge bets against an eventual fracture with Google. Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo highlighted the lengths Samsung went to do this in a piece last year, which included this infographic:

samsung apps google

Google, in turn, had reasons to fear Samsung, which controls a majority of the Android ecosystem, to the point that users are more familiar with the Galaxy brand than with Android.

Now the mutual apprehension seems to have been put aside. So, what changed? It’s hard to know for sure, but this report, along with the sweeping patent deal announced earlier this week, suggests the two companies will become closer than ever.

The world’s largest internet company and the world’s largest consumer electronics company have joined forces long term, and the fruits of this alliance will shape the world for at least the next decade.

 

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