Google and Samsung are working on Wintel like alliance to dominate mobile computing
There is something huge happening in Android world.
Two key platform players – Google and Samsung – are working on a broad set of agreements to align their interests and activities for the future development and promotion of Android. Things under discussion right now include Samsung scaling down its UI and app store/content developments in favor of Google Play, revenue sharing for all apps and content sold through Google Play on Samsung phones, joint Google Samsung development of certain features for Samsung flagships, that will later be integrated into Android, closing of Nexus program in 2015 and more.
The discussions, first reported by Mobile –Review’s Eldar Murtazin and now partly confirmed by Re/Code, are in the very early stages and haven’t progressed much beyond the broad outlines. But if both companies succeed to come to terms, the result may be the creation of an alliance similar to Wintel, that could dominate the mobile computing for many years. The sale of Google’s Motorola unit to Lenovo is probably the part of the strategic shift in Google’s thinking about the future of Android that brought about the alliance discussions with Samsung.
The first tangible result of Google/Samsung alliance, now confirmed both by Murtazin and Re/Code, will be the gradual shutdown of Samsung app store on Android, including its movie, music and other content offerings in favor of Google Play.
In exchange, according to Murtazin, Google will now offer Samsung branded section in Play for special deals, features and promotions. And, most importantly, the revenue share for all apps and content sold through Google Play on Samsung devices. The companies are now negotiating exact amounts of Play income that Google will share with Samsung. After the deal is done, it will serve as a blueprint for Play Store arrangements with other Android vendors who are investing in their own, or third party app stores and content offerings.
Also, confirmed both by Murtazin and Re/Code, Samsung’s will significantly scale down its TouchWiz and Magazine UX Android skin development efforts. According to Murtazin, neither TouchWiz nor Magazine UX will be cancelled outright anytime soon. But Samsung will gradually reduce the amount of time and resources it allocates for Android UI, while expanding the line-up of Google Play Edition devices. Then it will watch the market reception and will decide how to proceed further, depending on results.
Instead of investing heavily in its own Android user interface, Samsung will focus on creating the unique features to differentiate its smartphones and tablets. The examples of such features shipping already are advanced multitasking, enhanced pen/stylus functionality, multi-window support, etc; available only on Galaxy Notes.
Furthermore, Google and Samsung are discussing ways to incorporate Samsung innovations directly into Android. The idea is that some Google engineers will work with Samsung teams developing new advanced features, that will first appear in Samsung Galaxy devices and will be exclusive to them for some time (about a year). Then these new features will ship as integral part of new Android release and become available to everyone else.
While Samsung is scaling down its Android UI customization efforts, Google is getting out of smartphone hardware business. Motorola will soon be part of Lenovo, and the Nexus line is now scheduled for closure in 2015. Google will release several Nexus devices this year, but more and more emphasis will be given to Google Play Edition devices, with pure Android OEM smartphones completely replacing Nexus next year. Things may change in the next twelve months, but today Google does not see a good reason to continue the further expansion of its own smartphone/tablet brand.
And what about Tizen? If Samsung and Google are able to reach this broad strategic partnership deal, Tizen is as good as dead.
Samsung has scheduled Tizen event in Barcelona a day before Mobile World Congress, where it had two commercial devices ready to launch. But after NTT DoCoMo pulled the plug on its Tizen plans, event is up in the air. Today Samsung is still undecided whether to proceed with its planned Tizen smartphone launch, or cancel it and announce Galaxy S5 at the end of February instead.
Some versions of Tizen may show up in Samsung’s TVs, cameras and other devices later this year. But if Samsung and Google can agree on the long term vision for Android, even that will be replaced by Android eventually.
Currently these are all the details that leaked about this new broad alliance effort between Google and Samsung. But, as one source close to both companies told Re/Code – “a huge change, a sea change” occurred in the relationship between Google and Samsung in the last few weeks.
The companies have been strong partners on Android for years. But both were very suspicious about each others goals before now. Samsung was unhappy with Google’s efforts and ambitions in smartphone hardware space, and I can’t image Google execs liked where Samsung was going with TouchWiz duplication Android’s native apps.
Now, this mutual distrust may soon be over. Google and Samsung are going “all-in” with a common vision about the future development of Android, each focusing on the areas where he is best and minding the partner interests. Such alliance between two biggest players in mobile computing, if successful, may have huge implications for the whole industry and dominate post PC era for a decade or more, just like Wintel did did during the PC years.