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Will Samsung-Google alliance last?
Publication Date : 14-03-2013
Samsung Electronics and Google Inc. have thrived through their smartphone alliance, fighting their common rival Apple Inc. in the fiercely competitive global IT industry.
Since the introduction of its Galaxy S smartphone series, Samsung has grown to become the world’s biggest handset maker, and the majority of the Korean smartphones shipped worldwide are equipped with Google’s Android mobile operating platform.
“Samsung is one of our most important partners and we talk to them all the time,” said Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt during a press conference in Seoul in last September.
The Samsung-Google alliance took off as a growing number of people began adopting smartphones with the roll-out of Apple’s iPhones around the world. Without its own decent mobile platform, the Suwon-based firm strengthened its partnership with Google for its Android mobile operating system which it boasted for being open platform, in contrast with Apple’s iOS.
Cutting reliance on Google
Samsung and Google still have a strong partnership, which was stressed by the latter’s executive chairman himself many times during his past visits to Korea.
But things seem to be changing with the demand increasing for an improved variety of mobile platforms from handset manufacturers as well as mobile carriers.
“Some mobile carriers have negative views on the Android platform,” said a top telecom executive at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month. “They were feeling more uncomfortable about Google than Apple.”
As more handset makers choose to go with the Android mobile platform, Google is gaining stronger control of the market, raising fees related to the use of the mobile software, according to multiple industry sources here who wished to remain unidentified.
The smartphone manufacturers’ attempts to somewhat distance themselves from Google was detected at last month’s mobile trade show when they showed support for new mobile platforms such as Tizen and Firefox.
Samsung and Intel, as well as Orange and NTT DoCoMo led the group of Tizen OS supporters, stating that they are “driving for openness of the platform.”
LG Electronics, ZTE and Huawei also took part in the released of another Web-based mobile platform named Firefox amid the introduction of the Tizen OS.
Google’s Motorola acquisition
Handset makers are bracing for new mobile platforms now that Google is known to be planning to make greater use of device manufacturer Motorola, which it acquired in May last year.
While the two are yet to produce a hot-selling gadget exclusively labeled “Google,” the electronics firms are well aware that Motorola may gain an edge as an affiliate of the US software company in the near future.
When asked about the reason behind acquiring Motorola, Google’s chief legal office David Drummond said it was purchased to “help protect the Android ecosystem” and because the firm was “very concerned about the use of software patents.”
“Android has been about the use of choice,” he said during his visit to Seoul last October. “Competitors were using patents to stop that. We will use Motorola to combat that.”
However, industry sources are agreeing that the company to be most feared will be Google, not Apple, due to its wealth of information collected and wide global user base.
Upcoming Tizen launch
The first Tizen OS-powered smartphones are to be launched in the second half of this year.
“The key to turning this into a success is to have as many mobile manufacturers get involved in adopting the new mobile platform, which means it should not only be picked up by Samsung but also LG, HTC, Sony and RIM among others,” said an executive with close knowledge of the matter.
The executive also said that Samsung was committed to turning the launch of Tizen into a success, considering that the Korean company’s proprietary Bada mobile OS has been integrated into Tizen.
The integration indicates that people will be able to make use of Bada apps on smartphones operating on the Tizen platform and vice versa.
“We’ll now have to wait and see if Samsung becomes the first to release the reference phone running on the Tizen OS,” said an industry official.