Although the public didn’t have a fly on the wall inside those boardrooms where the cross-licensing deal between Samsung and Google was hammered out, one rumor did escape the closed doors. According to Re/code, Google allegedly pressured Samsung to lighten the touch on TouchWiz. It appears that Samsung will tone down its Microsoft Metro-styled Magazine UX in future devices (Galaxy S5, anyone?) and push Google Play for content consumption over its own homegrown apps like Samsung Hub, Samsung’s own App Store and various watch-and-chat apps that end with “ON.”
I’m sure many consumers will be overjoyed at the possible demise of Samsung bloatware. As for Google, although Android has surpassed iOS in market share, the biggest slice of that pie goes to Samsung, which until now has been promoting its own content over that in Google Play. Obviously, it means little to Google that Android is in more users’ hands than iOS if Google isn’t pulling in significant Play Store revenue from all of those devices. Google consequently stands to gain a much larger chunk of change from its Play Store.
I seriously doubt that we’ll see vanilla Android on the Galaxy S5, the Galaxy Note 4 or any late-2014 tablets Samsung makes (especially not the Galaxy Note 4 with its suite of S-Pen apps). We also probably won’t see the end of gimmicky features such as the eye-tracking tech or the “hover” gestures that accompanied the Galaxy S4/Note 3 last year. I even expect those features to mature beyond mere gimmicks this year and actually develop into something useful. Moreover, that ubiquitous TouchWiz look and feel will likely continue, since Google appears to be more concerned with steering Samsung users to the Play Store than with the overall look and feel of TouchWiz (aside from that Magazine UX).
Samsung isn’t a company that likes to give a huge potential revenue stream to Google for a song, so one has to wonder what Google is giving Samsung in return other than its patent portfolio (which still hasn’t had much success against Apple and Microsoft). It could be that Google’s decision to sell Motorola to Lenovo at a huge loss was actually a concession to Samsung, or it could even be that Google turns once again to Samsung to make some of its upcoming Nexus devices. Of course it’s equally likely that Google’s divestiture of Motorola would open the door for “LeMoto” (thanks to Rob Jackson of Phandroid for that winning name combo) to produce the next Nexus phone without alienating other Android OEMs.