Samsung and Google logos

My thoughts on the Samsung/Google patent deal

Patents. They pretty much confuse the heck out of me, and presumably most of you too. Not what a patent is, or what they’re for, but simply the whole mess that the technology industry as got itself into – especially when it comes to enforcement, appeals, and the massive differences from country to country.

But this week, it seems that Google and Samsung have got together to sign a patent deal that will help Android fight against future patent battles, most notably from Apple but by no means limited to.

Yet, there are likely to be many other benefits from the deal too, some of which will come out in the coming weeks and months.

Given Samsung released the Galaxy S4 last year with its own portfolio of ‘S-Apps’ to replicate the Google ones, in case there might come a time Samsung had to go it alone, the benefit of hindsight now shows that, while Samsung was on the one hand willing to break away, on the other it was working closely with Google to cement a better working relationship and some security.

There are rumours circulating that as part of this new deal, Samsung will work even closer with Google in the future. Could this mean Samsung might start to build hardware for Google, from glasses to the many other ‘Internet of Things’ devices Google is so interested in developing?

And could elements of Samsung’s own apps and OS customisation actually make it to other Android devices by becoming part of the native OS, including future Nexus models?

In theory, except for one thing. Eldar Murtazin from has hinted on his Twitter account that Google might be ditching the Nexus brand completely, favouring an increase in Google Play Editions (currently sold only in the USA), where any manufacturer can sell its devices via Google’s own store – as long as it doesn’t come with any manufacturer-led customisation.

Great news for hardcore Android fans, and important for Google too. It now has a way to ensure timely updates and even a more standardised look and feel that will make Android less fragmented.

The future of Motorola, according to Murtazin, is also called into question (although there’s little to no reasoning why), while it seems that the already delayed and, frankly, almost farcical development of Tizen will almost certainly end – at least from Samsung’s side. And good riddance too, in my humble opinion.

Tizen was an integral part of Samsung’s ‘Plan B’ when its relationship with Google and Android in general looked shaky. Samsung rightly feared the consequences of Google trying to go it alone and pushing its Nexus products in direct competition to its own (yes, even if Samsung was building some of them), but now it seems it Samsung doesn’t have to worry quite so much – especially if Nexus is ditched.

Tizen, just like Bada before it, was always a terrible idea to anyone on the outside. It’s understandable why such a huge company would fear anything that could impact on its future success – but it was also incredibly naive to believe customers would buy future Samsung-made smartphones and tablets without access to Android apps and games (and that includes via side loading, emulation etc).

Personally, I wish Samsung would give up trying to build rival stores and services to compete against Google (selling books, magazines, music, videos etc) and just concentrate on the hardware.

But if it is going to do clever things, like adding split-screen windows and floating windowed-apps, or support for pens, I hope this can be shared with Google to make Android a better OS for all.

As it stands, most tablets, especially the larger screened ones, need a better ‘desktop’ user interface than Google can currently offer. It’s all very well adding a keyboard, mouse or trackpad – and mirroring the display on a HD TV, but it’s near impossible to be as productive as on a laptop.

Motorola’s now phased-out Webtop was a step in the right direction, but sadly killed off before its time. That time being when the hardware would catch up to match the requirements.

Today’s deal is no doubt one of many to come, and as Google continues to grow at an alarming rate and invest in a number of different areas of technology, no doubt the other companies selling Android devices will have to start looking carefully at its options and how it will work more closely with Google in the future.

You see, while many of these deals are to help fight against the likes of Apple or Microsoft, it might well be Google that will become the main aggressor in the future. Now is the time to show who you’re with or against.

Samsung’s Press Release:


London, UK -27th January, 2014 – Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. and Google Inc. today furthered their long-term cooperative partnership with a global patent cross-license agreement covering a broad range of technologies and business areas. This mutually beneficial agreement covers the two companies’ existing patents as well as those filed over the next 10 years.

“We’re pleased to enter into a cross-license with our partner Samsung,” said Allen Lo, Deputy General Counsel for Patents at Google. “By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation.”

With this agreement, Samsung and Google gain access to each other’s industry-leading patent portfolios, paving the way for deeper collaboration on research and for the development of current and future products and technologies.

“This agreement with Google is highly significant for the technology industry,” said Dr. Seungho Ahn, the Head of Samsung’s Intellectual Property Center. “Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes.”


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