Nerval's Lobster writes: The idea of Samsung as a Google rival isn’t unprecedented. For the past several quarters, Samsung has progressively molded Android to its own vision: layered with TouchWiz and sprinkled with all sorts of Samsung-centric apps, the software interface on Samsung devices is deviating rapidly away from the “stock” Android that runs on other manufacturers’ devices. During this year’s unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S4 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, Samsung executives onstage barely mentioned the word “Android,” and played up features designed specifically for the device. Establishing its own brand identity by moving away from “stock” Android has done Samsung a lot of good: its smartphones and tablets not only stand out from the flood of Android devices on the market, but it’s given the company an opportunity to position itself as the one true rival to iOS. While other Android manufacturers struggle, Samsung has profited. If Samsung continues to gain strength, it could become a huge issue for Google, which has its own eye on the hardware segment. Although Google purchased Motorola in 2011 for $12.5 billion, it hasn’t yet remolded the brand in its own image, claiming that the subsidiary’s existing pipeline of products first needs to be flushed into the ecosystem. But that reluctance could be coming to an end: reports suggest that Google will pump $500 million into marketing the Moto X, an upcoming “hero” smartphone meant to reestablish Motorola’s dominance of the Android space. If the Moto X succeeds, and Google decides to push aggressively into the branded hardware space, it could drive Samsung even further away from core Android. Never mind issuing TouchWiz updates until the original Android interface is virtually unrecognizable—with its industry heft, Samsung could potentially boot Google Play from the home-screen and substitute it with an apps-and-content hub of its own design. That would take a lot of work, of course: first, Samsung would need to build a substantial developer ecosystem, and then it would need to score great deals with movie studios and other content providers. But as Amazon and Apple have shown, such things aren’t impossible. The only questions are whether (a) Samsung has the will to devote the necessary time and resources to such a project, and (b) if it’s willing to transform its symbiotic relationship with Google into an antagonistic one.
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