Samsung may dump Windows-like Magazine UI, downplay custom apps

Samsung and Google work towards an agreement on what Android should look like.

The Magazine UI on the NotePro. Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

Google may have twisted Samsung's arm into ditching its new Windows 8-like Android UI, called Magazine, due to fears it too much of a departure from the vanilla version of the OS.

Magazine is Samsung's new widget-centric successor to the TouchWiz UI that it showed off at this year's CES conference, when it debuted on the company's 12.1-inch Galaxy NotePro tablet .

Early reviews of the NotePro by CNET highlighted that Magazine UI was such a departure from the pure Android seen in Nexus devices that it was difficult to tell the NotePro was running Android 4.4. Instead, the UI seemed to lean on graphical elements, such as live tiles, which are more familiar to Windows 8.1 and Flipboard.

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According to Re/code's unnamed sources, Google execs were so dismayed by the new interface that they've been locked in negotiations with Samsung ever since CES in a bid to rein in the Korean company's skinned version of Android, in favour of something more consistent with its own vision for the OS.

It's not clear exactly what parts of Magazine UX Google objected to, but it's not hard to imagine Android as a whole suffering if its most dominant player is pushing an interface that is unrecognisable as Android.

It looks as if Google's objections have hit their target: Re/code's sources said Samsung may abandon the Magazine UI altogether or make adjustments to it. Sources told the site there had been "a huge change, a sea change in the last few weeks" between the companies.

The report follows a cross-licensing patent deal the pair announced on Sunday and comes as Google prepares to sell the hardware side of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for $2.91bn . Google will retain Motorola's patents and its Advanced Technologies and Projects Group.   

According to the report, Samsung will also bury its line of home-made apps that divert users away from Google's content to Samsung's own, such as ChatOn and WatchOn. Newer Samsung devices for example will instead highlight Google Play apps leading to movies and music.

ZDNet has asked Samsung and Google for comment and will update the story if it receives any.

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