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Feature Saturday, January 14, 2012, 03:05 pm PT (06:05 pm ET)

Reacting to Apple at CES 2012, part two: Samsung's Galaxy Note


Galaxy vs Android

The Note is more than just Samsung proving that it can introduce a product that isn't a direct clone of an Apple product. It's also a declaration of independence from the freedom and openness of Google's Android.

Google has to be concerned when it sees third parties at CES referring to "Galaxy & Android devices," because Samsung has now gained a marketing name poised to usurp the crown of Google's mobile operating system, with Google's help.



Samsung was one of the first Android licensees to blatantly ignore Google's request not to use Android 2.x to build tablets back in late 2010, when it introduced the original 7 inch Galaxy Tab. Yet, after working with Google for over a year on delivering Android 3.0 Honeycomb versions of its Galaxy Tab devices throughout 2011, Samsung is back to releasing an Android 2.3-based tablet device for 2012.

The only explanation for this is Samsung's reported interest in developing its own software and platform value, an initiative that was kicked into high gear after Google announced plans to buy Motorola.

Last August, Samsung's chairman reportedly "urged his company`s executives to strengthen Samsung`s smartphone operating system Bada in responding to Google's takeover of Motorola Mobility" and "focus on differentiating the quality of Samsung’s smartphones."

While Android licensees all lined up to voice support for their singular party platform and the "Great Successor" of Android 3.0/4.0, the acquisition of Motorola by Google is a direct threat to what are now second tier licensees, simply because they are now in line behind Motorola, a new first party to Google's Android platform.

While Samsung, Google's most visible and successful licensee, is distancing itself from Google in an effort to control its own destiny, Google is working to enforce the use of its own "Holo" user interface for Android 4.0 for any devices that connect to its Android Market. It's also working to promote its "Android Upgrade Alliance" to enhance homogeny and gain control of the fractionalization tearing apart the Android platform.

Solo not Holo

Samsung's "go it alone" opposition strategy has included creating its own TouchWiz user interface for its Android phones, something that Samsung used as an excuse not to roll out Android 4.0 to customers of its relatively new Galaxy S, a direct attack on Google's Android Upgrade Alliance, which was supposed to commit licenses to roll out upgrades for their Android devices for at least 18 months.



Samsung's move was particularly embarrassing for Google because the Galaxy S is virtually identical to the Nexus S, a cobranded Google model. Galaxy S was first released in July 2010, making it about the same age as iPhone 4, and barely 18 months old when Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich rolled out on the Samsung/Google Galaxy Nexus last month. (Correction was made to Galaxy/Nexus S branding details as originally published a few hours ago.)

With the Galaxy Note, Samsung has not only continued using Android 2.3 and TouchWiz, but has also added its own new stylus features, pen-based apps and a stylus API for third party developers. Google has developed its own stylus support in parallel in Android 4.0, but the two implementations aren't compatible; they were both developed in isolation.

So while Google is pushing homogeny among tablets and smartphones with Android 4.0, its top smartphone licensee Samsung has adopted the same strategy of Android's top selling tablet maker, Amazon: take an old version of the platform, fork it, and drive off in an original direction at odds with Google's strategic plan.

Samsung has also followed Amazon in plotting to replace Google entirely by starting to develop its own mobile advertising intuitive, AdHub. If Google was concerned about Apple's iAd taking back a significant chunk of iOS mobile ad revenue, it must also be concerned that the two most prolific Android licensees are both attempting to take the mobile revenue currently supporting Android for themselves.

Android vs Tizen

On top of that, Samsung has also followed up on expanding two initiatives that directly compete for oxygen with Android: Samsung's own Bada platform, and the company's Tizen partnership with Intel, which is essentially the remains of Intel's Meego partnership with Nokia without Nokia (which has since abandoned Meego Linux to focus on Microsoft's Windows Phone platform).

If those two efforts weren't enough evidence that Samsung wants independence from Android, the company also just announced plans at CES to combine Bada with Tizen, creating a new Linux mobile platform that can run existing Bada apps and porting Samsung's Bada SDK to Tizen.

Samsung is also a Windows Phone licensee, but the company's own Bada platform now has greater market share among mobile phones than Microsoft has with WP7 across all of its licensees, making Bada/Tizen a credible candidate for the third place smartphone platform. Of course, removing Samsung's support from Android would also have a tremendous impact on the viability of Android to remain among the top two.

That should leave Google terrified of Samsung, which is essentially doing to Google what Google did to its original smartphone partner Apple. The primary difference is that Apple continued to make lots of money even as Google delivered Android, while Google isn't making nearly as much revenue from Android, and will likely collapse if Samsung, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others continue to take its software and ignore Google's ad platform.

On page 3 of 3: More Samsung at CES