In this edition of the Friday Debate, we look back at a week of momentous news, probably the biggest news week in Android in a long time. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Samsung and Google have signed a huge patent deal, that Google sold Motorola to Lenovo, and that one Russian blogger thinks this all means the Nexus is getting the axe from next year. Even if we don’t have a complete picture of what’s happening, it’s hard not to see a “conspiracy” in these seemingly unrelated events.
What’s clear is that whatever happened behind closed doors at Google, Samsung, Motorola, and Lenovo will deeply affect the Android world for the next few years. So tell us, what’s your take? Do you believe the theory that Motorola was a bargaining chip between Samsung and Google? Is an alliance between Google and Samsung good for the Android ecosystem? What’s your take on the fate of Motorola?
Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!
Oh boy, time to don my best tinfoil hat and sit in my favorite conspiracy theory chair. Unlike most things there is actually only one right answer to this and it’s anyone’s guess as to what that might be. So let’s go over the facts. Samsung and Google sign a 10-year patent agreement. Samsung announces that they’re cutting back on bloatware. They’ve all but announced that they’re ditching their Android-alternative apps to embrace more Google Apps. Google has sold Motorola and there are rumors that the Nexus line up is no more (which effectively cuts LG and ASUS out of the Google’s life). I believe I may have also read that Samsung and Google are teaming up for some educational thing coming this Spring. Lest we forget that there is a rumor going around that Samsung is scaling back the number of Windows notebooks they ship this year in favor of Chromebook (who remembered that one yesterday? No one!).
So, too long didn’t read: Samsung got rid of all the things that are costing them money…and then so did Google because let’s face it, Moto hasn’t turned a profit this decade and the Nexus brand wasn’t designed to make money.
When you look at it all, it points to just one thing: Samsung and Google are up to something. It makes sense too. Samsung controls the most popular hardware in all of Android with their Galaxy series as well as the most popular hardware for ChromeOS. Google controls Android and ChromeOS.
What are they up to? It’s anyone guess. The signs point to Google and Samsung collaborating more in terms of phones, tablets, and Chromebooks. If you’re Samsung, why not work with the company that makes the OS which makes your products so popular? As Google, why not work with the company whose hardware is so popular it’s often mistook for your own? Instead of trying to fight the misconceptions, it appears as though Google and Samsung are going to be using them to their advantage. Perhaps the Galaxy line up, once it’s been debloated and once Touchwiz is more manageable, will become the official phone of Android? Maybe Samsung will do the next line of developer-edition phones and tablets (the GPE S5, Note 4, Note 10.1, etc) effectively putting everyone under one roof.
I can’t say for sure but what I do want to say is that I’m happy about it. Android has needed a big shift for a long time now and the Google-Motorola deal simply wasn’t the shift that everyone thought it was going to be. For Android to truly take that next step, it requires steps being taken from all the heavy hitters and the two heaviest hitters in all of Android are Samsung and Google. So hold on to your tinfoil hats folks (I know I will) because something ridiculous (good or bad, I can’t say yet) is going to happen.
I find the whole situation a little odd, too much has happened all at once for this just to be a coincidence, or has it?
Now that we know that it was Google who instigated the sale of Motorola, it’s hard not to question why Google decided to sell a big portion of its hardware business at the same time that it announces a deal with Samsung over software. It looks even stranger when you consider that Motorola was sold for so cheap, the company is surely in a better place now than when Google bought it. Was Google in a hurry to sell?
Perhaps Google is getting out of the smartphone market for good to focus on the next big technology, maybe there’s a back handed business deal to stop Google from competing with Samsung, or just maybe we’re on the verge of some bigger deal between Samsung and Google. A big patent deal and a gentleman’s agreement over development trends hints heavily at some sort of collaboration, but over what?
Of course the simpler explanation could be the right one. Google sold Motorola because it doesn’t want the hassle and cost of developing smartphone hardware anymore. The Samsung and Google deal could just be a marriage of convenience, with the patent arrangement acting a show of good faith between the two most dominant forces in Android, especially with all the court cases going on lately.
I can’t quite get my head around what it all means, but we’ll find out sooner or later.
To me this is all about Google realizing that as much as it wants to, it really can’t control the direction of Android by itself anymore. Samsung has become too big and powerful in the space. Phone nerds like us will shout from the mountaintops that phones like the Nexus 5 and Moto X are spectacular devices. But then our friends and family member will go out and buy a Galaxy S4, Note 3, or a Galaxy S3 if they can’t afford the premium devices. For that reason alone Google needs to work closely with Samsung if it has any hope of meaningfully influencing how the average use interacts with their platform.
With that agreement in place, there’s no real need for a phone like the Moto X which is as close to stock as you can get without getting a Nexus device. And with Google Play Edition phones, you arguably don’t even need a Nexus program (though that’s an entirely different conversation in my mind).
If you don’t need the Moto X, or the company that makes it, you sell the company. As one of the biggest brands in China that’s hoping to break into the U.S., Lenovo is a pretty obvious choice.
It’s doubtful we’ll ever see a stock Android phone hit the mass market, but at least the most popular phones on the market will be closer to Google’s vision.
On a personal note, this might actually make me buy a Samsung device, if they can make one that doesn’t use cheap-feeling plastic.
Between the rumor of the informal Samsung-Google pact, the sale of Motorola and the Google-Samsung license agreement, change is obviously in the air. What’s less certain is what this change means for the future of Android.
I’m not one to believe in coincidences, and I’ll make no exception here. For me, it’s seems pretty simple: Samsung and Google have decided to form a partnership that will see the two companies work closer together to reach mutually beneficial goals, instead of butting heads over the direction fo Android. As part of the deal, each side will need to make some concessions.
Do I believe that the sale of Motorola happened solely as part of some deal with Sammy? Not really, though I think it played a role in the arrangement.
Aside from the possible Samsung factor, I believe that Motorola simply just wasn’t fitting in with Google’s big picture. With Motorola still bleeding cash, it makes more sense for Google to take the parts it wants like Moto’s Advanced Technology group and library of patents, and shed away the rest.
With Motorola gone, Google can focus its future hardware efforts towards bigger moonshot projects involving robots, the connected home, Project Ara and so forth. I also believe that Google felt that Nest was a better fit for this shift in direction, which is why Nest is rumored to be Google’s new core hardware team.
So what does this mean for Android? While none of us here no the future with an certainty, I would imagine that it means Google will start to work more closely with Samsung in shaping Android’s future, since the Korean giant is undeniably the biggest player in the Android world. That said, I don’t feel Google will abandon its other partners either. The closer partnership between Samsung and Google is likely one of convenience, and Google would be a fool to let Samsung go unchecked. For that reason I believe programs like the Nexus line will continue to exist as a way to bring attention to other brands and to the ‘pure Android’ experience.
Sure, it’s possible the line will evolve or perhaps even Google will start offering more than one Nexus device from multiple brands, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the program.
Summing it all up, we’re at a turning point for Android and for Google in general. There’s a lot of unknowns still, but we’ll know more about the changes ahead in due course.
What do YOU think?