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Why Samsung needs to move beyond Android -- and Google

Matt Hamblen | July 14, 2014
The company's profit problems show its hardware focus isnt enough.

In addition to the new Samsung Galaxy Apps store, there will also be a separate online Tizen Store for apps for Tizen devices from various manufacturers. Samsung collaborated with the Tizen Association in creating that store.

Meanwhile, Google separately keeps promoting new "pure Android" products like the Nexus line of smartphones made by various manufacturers, including the Nexus 5 built by LG, which went on sale last year for $349 unlocked. A big feature of such devices is that they get OS updates directly from Google, without having to wait for a manufacturer or carrier.

Google also has offered up a detailed approach to helping developers keep that pure Android look on their many apps.

Beneath calm waters

Behind this need to cooperate on basic Android, Samsung is privately concerned — even angered — that it has to step in line with Google in many areas of mobile technology, according to several analysts.

Samsung and Google won't acknowledge any differences when asked directly by Computerworld, but the differences are real, if well-masked, analysts said.

According to Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, whenever the two companies butt heads, it is really about them "being opportunistic" in a business sense. In other words, Samsung sees economic value in promoting some Samsung-specific apps or of having built Knox software more than two years ago.

With the creation of Knox, Samsung realized enterprise customers didn't feel Android alone was secure enough to gain traction with business users who were turning away from secure BlackBerry products and increasingly adopting iOS smartphones and tablets.

As for Google's move to buy Divide while in public paying tribute to Samsung's Knox, Gold said that Google was trying to help Samsung "save face" while appearing "magnanimous and not ticking off a key partner."

Gold is convinced that Google will rely heavily on Divide, not Knox, in the enterprise upgrade that's part of Android L. "Knox was really a one-off product that Samsung was making for certain devices, while Divide is more Android-general," Gold said.

But once Android L has Divide software included, Samsung won't be able to charge customers for Knox software, Gold predicted.

As for Samsung's future plans with Knox, a Samsung spokesperson said in a statement after I/O, "Samsung is committed to the long term evolution of mobile security and the ongoing development of Samsung Knox," adding that Samsung's list of enterprise and government clients "continues to grow rapidly."

Samsung's future with Google

Samsung recently predicted a drop in profit for the third consecutive quarter, and blamed slow smartphone market growth and other factors.

Some analysts pointed to a systemic problem Samsung faces, especially its reliance on Android and not its own software. That's a contrast with the likes of Apple, whose iPhones and iPads run exclusively on Apple's iOS.


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