The strained relationship between Google and Samsung over Android customization has been apparent for a while, and it now looks like this discontent has spread to the wearable world. Google CEO Larry Page reportedly confronted Samsung last week over its decision to invest more in its Gear 2 and Gear Fit smartwatches than the Android Wear-packing Gear Live. While the details of Page’s discussions aren’t available, it’s clear that Google wants its biggest hardware partner to devote more attention to its Android-based platform. Reportedly, Google had even wanted Samsung to avoid dipping into wrist-worn technology until Android Wear was ready. As we know now, the Korean company didn’t exactly honor that request, instead, it released the Galaxy Gear and quickly threw most of its energy into peripherals running Tizen and other platforms.
Google is growing increasingly worried that Samsung, its largest licensee, is working to undermine its own strategy for Android, while Samsung and the rest of the industry is concerned that Google has become a “bully,” according to a new report by The Information. Reports of contention between Google and Samsung are not new, but increasing hostility between the two companies were clearly evident at the recent Allen & Co. meeting of tech and media industry luminaries recently held in Sun Valley, according to a report by The Information written by Jessica Lessin. In particular, the report described a “tense private meeting” at the event between Google’s chief executive Larry Page and Samsung vice chairman Jay Y. Lee. The meeting involved Samsung’s smartwatch strategy, which is currently focused primarily on Tizen and a heavily customized Android fork, rather than Google’s official Android Wear. “Right before Samsung launched its first Gear watch last fall,” Lessin wrote, “Google objected to how it planned to brand the device, since it was running a very heavily modified version of Android, according to people familiar with the matter. Google had wanted Samsung to wait to release the Gear until its new version of Android for wearables, Android Wear, was ready. But Samsung pushed ahead.” Back in 2010, Google similarly tried to stop Samsung from using Android 2.x to build a tablet clone of Apple’s iPad, insisting that its Android licensees wait until it could release Android 3.0 Honeycomb with features that promoted Google’s own vision for tablets. Samsung pushed ahead with its Galaxy Tab anyway, distracting attention away from Google’s Honeycomb project while also creating a bad experience for early Android tablet adopters. Google had also warned Samsung that its tablet products were too obviously similar to Apple’s iPad.