Samsung’s relationship with Google got even more complicated today when the Korean manufacturer announced a licensing deal that will enable owners of Galaxy Samsung owners to download Nokia’s Where mapping apps to their handsets. The free app will be able to sync with Samsung’s upcoming Gear S smartwatch, which will run the Tizen operating system, and will also work with Samsung’s Car Mode offering. The Here app is a solid mapping offering, as Gigaom’s Kif Leswing noted in reporting the news, although it’s unlikely many users will download the offering rather than turning to the Google Maps app that is already installed on Samsung’s Android products.
As we’ve written regularly over the last few months, Tizen has become increasingly important to Samsung as Google has moved to retake control of Android, severely limiting Samsung’s ability to use the platform as a vehicle to further its own line of mobile software and services. Rather than trying to compete directly with Google by building its own ecosystem within Android — which is a strategy Amazon continues to pursue — Samsung has put the reins on many of its offerings. Tizen is still a top priority for Samsung, but the OS has hit big speed bumps in the last few months as the company scrambles to build a viable ecosystem.
The new licensing deal may pave the way to Tizen-based smartphones running Here, but it may also be part of a strategy whereby Samsung uses the open source portion of Android and replaces key proprietary components — like Google Maps and Android Play — with its own offerings or those of third-party vendors. So while Business Insider opines that the deal signals Samsung may be moving away from Android, it may actually be one step closer to co-opting the platform for its own means.