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Samsung said to scale back its own Android apps on Google's request

A report from Recode says the relationship between the two companies has gone through "a huge change" over the past few weeks.

Samsung introduced the Galaxy NotePro with its Magazine UX at the Consumer Electronics Show.
Sarah Tew/CNET
If a recent report from Recode is correct, Samsung has caved to pressure from Google to make Android a little more pure.

The publication said the two companies started forming agreements at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month "that would bring Samsung's view of Android in line with Google's own." That means Samsung will consider changing or getting rid of its new Magazine UX interface that sits on top of Android, as well as highlight Google's apps for movies, music, and other services, instead of pushing its own, Recode said.

Samsung said in a statement Wednesday that it tries to give users a great experience and many options, so it offers services from Google, carrier providers, and Samsung itself.

"To continue our momentum of delivering great user experiences and bringing greater value to people's lives, Samsung will continue to identify and provide differentiated and innovative service and content offerings on our mobile devices," Samsung said.

We've contacted Google and will update the report when we have more information.

At first glance, it's unclear why Samsung would make a big shift from its current strategy and back away from its software efforts. The Korean electronics giant -- which sold one out of every three smartphones globally in 2013 -- has been making a big push to develop its own software and services. The company has acknowledged time and again that it's no longer enough for it to be a strong hardware company; Samsung also needs to offers software and services to avoid being hurt by the commoditization of mobile devices.

Recode had no information about what concessions Google may have made to Samsung. However, it was revealed Wednesday that Google has sold Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for nearly $3 billion. The unit, which Google bought for $12.5 billion in 2011, has failed to gain much traction against Samsung in the mobile market, but it's also part of the reason why Samsung has been developing its own operating system, known as Tizen.

Since Google no longer owns a mobile hardware business, it's likely much of the tension between it and Samsung could ease. It also makes it more likely that Samsung may lessen its focus on software and services.

And quite a big focus it has been. Over the past couple years, Samsung has built up two new business groups to work on areas outside of hardware -- Media Solutions Center and Open Innovation Center. Media Solutions Center, which has a big branch in Silicon Valley, builds software and services that are specific to Samsung devices. That group created the Magazine UX that shipped on Samsung's new Galaxy Note Pro tablet, as well as the WatchOn app for mirroring and controlling a TV via a mobile device.

The Americas branch of Media Solutions Center also hosted Samsung's first developer conference in late October in San Francisco, an event attended by 1,300 developers and with many sessions standing-room only. The group also will host a developer day next month at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Open Innovation Center, meanwhile, focuses on working with software and services start-ups to get them to create apps for Samsung's devices. The group, based in Silicon Valley, forms partnerships with startups, as well as makes investments and acquisitions. It also operates accelerators in New York and Palo Alto, Calif. Many of the US apps for Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch came about through OIC partnerships.

Another US-based business, Samsung Design America, also focuses on software and creating new product categories.

As recently as CES, Samsung hosted a panel to talk up its efforts with software and services in Silicon Valley. Curtis Sasaki, head of Media Solutions Center America; Marc Shedroff, vice president of the Open Innovation Center; and Dennis Miloseski, a former Google executive who heads the design studio at Samsung Design America, all talked about ways the company is trying to focus on areas outside of hardware. At that time, they stressed that big things were in store from their businesses in 2014.

"We're starting to position Samsung less as a technology company and more as a lifestyle brand," Miloseski said during the panel. "That is a really big move for Samsung."

Update, 1:45 p.m. PT with additional details.