Nuclear stand down: Google, Samsung, and the sale of Motorola Mobility

Samsung’s Plan B: copy every Google app.

The relationship between Google and Samsung has been rather complicated lately. Samsung uses Google’s Android OS on nearly all its phones and tablets, but Google competes with Samsung via the Nexus program and Motorola Mobility. Google needs to be careful to not anger Samsung, because Samsung accounts for around 40 percent of Android shipments and losing the company would be a major blow. Samsung is wary of the amount of control Google has over the OS that powers all its phones, so it tries its hardest to promote its own custom features and self-built apps, which are often poor clones of Google apps.

Google and Samsung have been in a cold war, both continually escalating their possible attack scenarios for when things heat up. Samsung was focused on creating alternatives to all of Google’s apps—it has even aimed to cultivate its own app store—in the hope that it could one day fork Android, dump the Google apps, and go out on its own. In the background, Samsung has also been trying to develop Tizen, a competing smartphone OS that it would own from the ground up. Google’s nuclear weapon of choice was Motorola. Motorola was owned by Google, but “firewalled” away from the Android Team. With only a reorganization, Google could go fully vertical—Apple style—and build hardware and software together. It could then either stop licensing the Play Store and other Google Apps to its competitors, or play extreme hardball during licensing negotiations. Even Samsung, with all its cloned Google apps, would not have much of a response to being cut off from Google Play Services and the Play Store.

Neither side went through with their plans, because aggression by either company would trigger mutually assured destruction. If Google integrates Motorola and Android, every Android OEM walks and Google’s market share goes down the tubes. If the next Galaxy S phone comes out with forked Android and no Google apps, Samsung’s user experience would be horrible—no Gmail, no Google Maps, and no huge Play Store app selection.

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via Ars Technica


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