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The rumour at the time was that Google fully intended to enter the hardware business. they wanted to keep Motorola forever and didn't just buy them for patents, but Samsung threw a hissy fit and threatened to drop android entirely if Google was going to compete with them directly. Moto was sold as part of a deal with samsung (samsung intro'd a tablet with a very microsoft-y UI shortly before google sold motorola, and after the sale the software was re-done to be much closer to stock android)

Presumably, with the Pixel line going head-to-head with the Galaxy S last year the situation has changed enough that Google no longer fears that Samsung will ditch Android. It's also worth noting that the rumour here is that Google will buy specific manufacturing and hardware assets from HTC, but will not buy the brand. So it's less of a "buying the company and keeping the parts they want" situation, and more of a "buy only the parts they want" situation.




I wish Google had just told Samsung they didn't care if they dropped Android back then - not sure what other OS Samsung would have switched to, but if Touchwiz is any indication it probably wouldn't have been very good.

Samsung's hardware today seems better, but for a long time the galaxy phones were cheap plastic builds with unwanted software customization on top. The few Motorola phones that came out during the Google ownership were nice.

If Google had built their own hardware back then (or had even gotten Nokia) I would probably have stayed on Android. For a long time starting around iPhone 5 the Apple hardware was a lot better (prior to that Apple lacked turn by turn navigation and LTE). The Nexus One was nice, but the S wasn't great and the Galaxy Nexus was terrible enough to switch.

Now Apple seems to be winning in security and new hardware features and everything else is fairly comparable.


Regardless of how bad Samsung's alternative would have been (probably Tizen, but possibly Windows Phone), it would still look incredibly bad for Android and Google for the news of the top Android OEM getting out of the Android space.


Maybe the thing that's changed is Google's assessment of the viability of Tizen or windows phone, or other alternative phone platforms. At this point Google might very well say to Samsung, go ahead and drop Android if you feel the need.


Yeah, at this point in the game if it's not Android or iOS it's dead in the water. Spinning up another platform is likely difficulty to impossible - we've seen so many try and fail, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Tizen, Jolla, Ubuntu. It's a chicken and egg problem, to get more users you need existing users making apps and bragging about their device.


The next big opportunity will be if and when some new category replaces phones for mobile computing, e.g. augmented reality glasses/contacts.


It's hopefully not impossible - look at history for numerous cases of dominant OSs being displaced by newcomers. What are the odds that we have arrived at the point in history where that never happens again?

Difficult? Yes. Very, very difficult.


>look at history for numerous cases of dominant OSs being displaced by newcomers...

Er, what? Let's see, what we're the dominant desktop OSes back in 1997? Windows and Mac. 20 years later? Still the same. Even 30 years ago it was DOS, the direct predecessor to Windows, and Mac.

In servers, various flavours of Unix have dominated for even longer. Arguably the dominant version at any one time was just the one that was closest to being a generic Unix as possible. Incompatible 'innovation' was punished mercilessly in the market.

The problem upstart OSes have to face is that encumbent OSes have established ecosystems of hardware and software support. Look at mobile. To compete with iOS you don't just have to compete with Apple, you have to compete with a $100bn+ ecosystem of apps, peripherals and services. Same with Android. Microsoft was just a few years behind them and it was too late even for them to break through with all their resources.

Unless Google or Apple do something monumentally stupid, they're going to stay dominant for decades to come.


Two quibbles: first, I'd argue that DOS, Windows 3.x/9x/ME, Windows NT are three separate OSs. Ditto MacOS and OSX.

Secondly, I think we're in agreement about the 'dominance for decades' thing. I should have said "Very, very hard ... and will take a long time."

Think of ITS, Symbolics, VMS, HPUX, Solaris, PalmOS, CP/M, OS/2 ... all once popular, now consigned to the dustbin.


Which of those ever had anything close to a 'dominant market position'?


Nothing time and money can't solve. And if there's one thing Google has, it's money.

The problem is that Google has the attention span of a hamster on crack. Instead of giving a new handset platform time to grow and mature, it'll jettison the whole project before it gets a chance to gain traction.


Same is true for most of Google's messaging apps: Gtalk, Buzz, Wave, Hangouts, Allo, Duo. Too many.


Because they implement the software manifesto build fast, ship often, fail quick to hardware. That's my opinion.


There is no way on earth Samsung would have dropped android. Google lost this game of chicken, that's for sure.


The entire Tizen project as well as continued efforts in Google competitors like Bixby is Samsung hedging their bets to leave. Samsung is probably the only Android OEM who could leave without going out of business: People would buy the next Galaxy no matter what it ran, and Samsung has the clout to push all the major app developers to push to their own store.


Some people would buy the next Galaxy. Plenty of people wouldn't, though, as soon as the helpful employee at the T-Mobile store warned them they couldn't reinstall their old apps on the new phone. It would be a really risky move. I imagine they'd have done it already if it weren't so likely to fail.


Bear in mind, Tizen supports Android apps. Samsung would have a lot of work to do here, but would have the pull to get the top X apps on their market, even if it took paying devs to list them. Then just add a migration tool like Google has on their Pixel devices that plugs into their old phone and downloads all of the same apps on their new phone (and probably would report back to Samsung which apps they were unable to do so with so they know who to encourage), and voila.

I'm sure there'd be some loss, but Samsung would likely come out doing fine. Even if they lost some market share, their profits would likely go up in the end, since they'd be the ones pulling the app market cuts and such.


>Then just add a migration tool like Google has on their Pixel devices that plugs into their old phone and downloads all of the same apps on their new phone

And be pleasantly surprised when none of their Google apps transfer over? Good luck with that.


Google Apps are important in some markets, but far less so in other markets.

Samsung might lose a percentage of the SV customerbase, but everyone who’s not relying on Google accounts wouldn’t really notice.


Multiple jurisdictions are investigating the antitrust implications of how Google Apps are controlled on Android.

We'll see if this is still a problem in a couple years.


Samsung already tried to have their own app market. It was terrible and failed. Other companies like RIM tried paying developers to port to their platform. It didn't make any difference.


It would not have access to Google services and would end like Windows phone.


Nope. Samsung would not have survived. First their stock price will drop as soon as they announced the departure from Android. The market would not have any confidence in any alternative, because history has taught us well. Second, as others have already pointed out, it is either Android or iOS. Try spin up a new mobile OS today and I guarantee you it would be hard to recreate the existing ecosystem. Samsung has the money, but good luck getting enough apps. You'd have to build a whole new interpolation layer so no one has to rewrite, ot rewrite as little as possible. That will take at least a year. Testing stability, reimplement every feature in modern mobile is going to be a multi-year project. By then, someone else would have taken Samsung's place. XiaoMi would is Samsung's contenter right now.


It is not just hedging their bets. One company can't rely on another company. You see it with Apple Maps, Siri, etc...


The alleged game of chicken, and we don’t know what else happened.


FYI,Samsung's tvs and watches are running Tizen instead of Android.


And they're horribly buggy messes. Samsung knows this, but is too stubborn to admit it.


Man, how different would the world be if Samsung had become a Windows Phone OEM?


Hard to tell, but I don't think it would have worked out since Google did not support their services on Windows Phone and, at the time, there were not good alternatives. (Although, personally I actually preferred alternate services such as Here Maps)


You might have said this about Nokia.


Samsung makes about 3-4 Billion profit in their smartphone division per quarter. I'd say it would have looked a lot worse for Samsung and their share price.


They would have just forked android.


Which would have been like Amazon's fork but crappier. And with a worse app store than Amazon.


This. I don't think anything Samsung has put out, with due deference to Samsung developers' work, has convinced me that Samsung management is capable of stewarding an Android fork sustainably with Google-equivalent resources. Much less with the fewer resources they'd have to spend on it.


My point wasn't that Samsung-Android would be Google equivalent but that AOSP was far ahead of Tizen and Windows Phone.


Google is as tied to Samsung as Samsung is to them. Until the last 2 years, Samsung was the only one making money selling Android. Now, we have a few chinese makers also making a few percent, while Samsung makes about 10% and Apple 90% of all mobile phone profits.


Samsung phones still come with garbage bloatware. I love the hardware but the first time I do whenever I upgrade to Galaxy Sn+1 is throw a custom ROM on it.


> not sure what other OS Samsung would have switched to

They may have invested more into Tizen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tizen


I've owned multiple iPhones and about a dozen Androids. I loved the Nexus and to this day it was my favorite smartphone.


Yeah. I've got plenty of criticism for Google. But not this. Google isn't in the business of "trading" businesses to flip them for profit.

It's a 100x more plausible that they went in with optimism, and got snagged by something unanticipated. And what's more unanticipated yet powerful, than not a law, but a competitor with deep political and financial leverage in your company's markets? Those kind of power plays happen all the time in the advertiser and entertainment world.


Unanticipated that Samsung would freakout at a competitor directly from Google itself?

I remember a lot of talk about Samsung's Tizen operating system around then, so the most plausible explanation to me was that Google bought Motorola specifically to keep Samsung inline with a more stock android, end results hold up to that as well.

Of course it's always hard to figure out cause and effect, but Google never even appeared to go all in with Motorola on hardware beyond the initial purchase... smelled like a ploy.


its much more plausible that they initially treated moto as any other android vendor, and now they are willing to treat their internal hardware division as someone who gets exclusive features and special treatment, as they have with pixel.

i think google made a mistake not turning moto into googles flagship hardware, similar to the surface/dell/hp/lenovo relationship. intel does the same thing with nucs.


Interesting about the Samsung thing as only two months after Google bought Motorola and two weeks after Samsung announced the Galaxy 4 Google/Moto sent me email re: building my tech into the Moto X. My startup SpeakerBlast forces multiple devices to play the same audio in sync and Samsung just announced that feature (Group Play) in the Galaxy S4. At a meeting with them in SunnyVale I thought I finally hit the start-up jackpot.....

https://ryanspahn.com/my-google-NDA-experience.html


I've never believed that rumor of Samsung threatening to drop Android simply because it would have been financial suicide for their smartphone division. They currently have about 23% of the worldwide smartphone market and if they were to ever leave their marketshare would quickly be scooped up by other Android OEM's. Consumers want their Google Maps, Waze, Play Store and other Google services and for Samsung to think they would retain their marketshare by selling phones devoid of these services would be very shortsighted.


Perhaps Samsung believes if Google manufactured its own phones, Samsung's smartphone might as well be finished in a couple of years anyway - Google could gain some market share then eventually discontinue updating Android for other manufacturers. Then Samsung would truly be on its own.


On the one hand, this makes total sense to me. On the other, how could Google not have sounded out their partners before deciding to compete with them? When you buy something for $12 billion, hopefully there's a little forethought involved.

Also, does anybody know what the Motorola acquisition and sale cost them? They kept pieces of it, so I can't tell right away how it worked out.


Pretty sure that rumor is incorrect. Google just had strong aversion to losing hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter, and bifurcating its workforce into haves and have nots. The bifurcation problem is now solved with the Alphabet reorg. The loss problem very much remains.


Not sure if that's the case. Samsung was always developing Android and Windows based mobile devices -- though Android was selling in much larger quantity.

Both Moto and HTC were/are way past their prime and I personally think Google should just let it die and pick up distressed assets at bargain price when it goes belly up.

It'd be also interesting if Samsung would drop Android altogether and starts using MS mobile OS.


Samsung also has their own OS, Tizen, which seems like a hedge against Google. I'd be curious to know what it would take for them to pull the trigger and make it the default OS in the Galaxy line.


> just let it die and pick up distressed assets at bargain price when it goes belly up.

Doing that would mean that all the experience that could have been part of the deal will already be gone.




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