updated 10:45 am EDT, Wed August 17, 2011
Samsung fears losing control to Google over OS
Samsung is worried enough that Google's buyout of Motorola might put more control back in the hands of the OS maker that it may buy out companies to compete, according to leaked details from an emergency corporate meeting. Company chair Lee Kun-hee reportedly urged management to improve its software engineer ranks to the point where buying companies might be needed. The Korean executive cast it as a fundamental shift of power in Android that Samsung had to resist, Yonhap said.
"We must pay attention to the fact that IT power is moving away from hardware companies such as Samsung to software companies," Lee was quoted as saying.
Outside of some early smartphones, most of Samsung's Android devices have had some version of TouchWiz, its custom interface layer. The interface has grown more elaborate in the past two years to where it dominates much of the layout. Its current version bears a strong resemblance to the iPhone's layout and is one key to Apple's ongoing lawsuits.
Many have seen Google's buyout of Motorola as indirectly trying to reverse the practices of Samsung and other Android partners to insist on customizing the OS at all costs. While they see it as differentiating their devices in a crowded market, many end users complain that the changes sometimes make the experience worse and always delay upgrades that they would have received much faster. Apple's success in being the largest individual smartphone maker has been partly credited to its guaranteeing fast updates to the latest features.
Motorola is being run as a separate entity and won't necessarily be steered into using stock Android, but the pressure will be on for it to represent Google's own values. Samsung has publicly endorsed the Google-Motorola deal as well, although many have noticed the boilerplate nature of its official statement and suggest that Google goaded the companies into saying something positive about a deal they may privately resent.