Google reportedly negotiating with Samsung to push Assistant over Bixby

Google and Samsung are in discussions for a deal that would give the US tech giant’s services more prominence on Samsung phones at the expense of those from the Korean manufacturer, according to a report by Bloomberg. The deal would reportedly involve promoting the Google Assistant and the Play Store over Samsung’s own alternatives.

Samsung is the world’s biggest smartphone company and by far the leading Android handset maker in the US. While its phones use Google’s Android operating system, Samsung has consistently tried to build out an ecosystem of its own software that runs atop Android, including the Bixby voice assistant and the Galaxy app store. Google’s own products are still available on Samsung’s phones, but Samsung has gone as far as to include dedicated buttons on its hardware in an attempt to make Bixby the most accessible option for customers.

Google and Samsung have clashed over the smartphone maker’s Android customizations before, and Samsung reportedly agreed to tone down some of its TouchWiz tweaks in 2014. While it sounds like Google still may not be happy with what’s transpired since then, Samsung will take some convincing this time. Potential terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed, but as Bloomberg notes, Google has a multi-billion-dollar agreement with Apple to be the default search provider in the Safari browser.

Another twist in this story is that the news comes as Google is joining other tech giants in attempting to convince US lawmakers that it isn’t abusing its power. The Play Store and Google’s mandatory service bundling on Android phones have received heightened antitrust scrutiny, and a deal with Samsung could undermine Google’s argument that the Android platform enables strong competition.

“Samsung remains committed to our own ecosystem and services,” a Samsung spokesperson tells Bloomberg in a statement. “At the same time, Samsung closely works with Google and other partners to offer the best mobile experiences for our users.”

“Like all Android device makers, Samsung is free to create its own app store and digital assistant,” a Google spokesperson says. “That’s one of the great features of the Android platform. And while we regularly talk with partners about ways to improve the user experience, we have no plans to change that.”

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