Google is pushing Samsung to abandon its duplicate Android ecosystem based on stories from Reuters and Bloomberg. The US tech giant is discussing with Samsung to promote its Play Store and Google Assistant over Samsung’s Galaxy App Store and Bixby assistant.
How serious is Google being about this? Serious enough that they are willing to pay Samsung to make this happen. Reuters reported that Google is offering more lucrative terms to Samsung if its retreats from its app strategy. This may include offering a higher share of ad revenue and PlayStore revenue with Samsung.
It is not clear if Samsung would seriously consider Google’s request. Samsung has invested lots of money into Bixby since its launch in 2017. It even went as far as including a dedicated Bixby button on its flagship smartphones to make it more accessible to users. Three years on, despite all of Samsung’s efforts, Bixby is still nowhere close to the level of the Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri or Amazon Alexa.
Samsung currently ships Bixby on its Android smartphones, Tizen smartwatches and even its Side by Side with Family Hub smart fridge. The big problem with the idea of Samsung killing Bixby is that this would severely affect its smartwatches, leaving them without a voice assistant function. It is highly unlikely that Google would compensate Samsung by building Google Assistant for its Tizen watches.
Samsung’s Galaxy App store, which has been around since 2014, has its uses aside from being used to update Samsung’s core Android apps that come with each smartphone it sells, it also acts as an alternate app store for mainland Chinese customers that don’t have access to the Google Play Store. Even so, Samsung’s app store hasn’t found much success in China. According to the AppInChina App Store Index rates Samsung as the 15th most-popular app store in China.
It is difficult imagining Samsung willing to abandon Bixby and the Galaxy App Store especially since the company has been concerned about its over-reliance on Google in the past. Bloomberg points out that the current COVID-19 pandemic may be one primary factor why Samsung would be open to this drastic suggestion from Google. The report stated that “the drop in demand for mobile devices during the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the company’s need for revenue and weakened its negotiating position with a key partner.”
Reuters, on the other hand, said both companies are working to finalise the terms by Friday. With Samsung’s Unpacked event looming on the horizon, due to take place next week, it doesn’t seem very likely that we will see dramatic changes in their software ecosystem. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how Samsung talks about Bixby during its presentation on 5 August and whether it is impacted by Google’s deal.