The Korea Times is reporting that Google new CEO Larry Page flew to South Korea last week to meet with top executives at the world's largest and third largest phonemakers -- Samsung and LG (respectively). Both South Korean-based firms are key proponents of the Android platform.
Google Meets With LG, Samsung
Mr. Page's meeting with Samsung’s vice chairman Lee Jay-yong, a son of owner Lee Kun-hee, was more casual with the pair appearing in public and Mr. Lee putting his hand on Mr. Page's shoulder in a friendly gesture. Two other Samsung executives -- Samsung Corporate Strategy Office head Choi Gee-sung and mobile division chief Shin Jong-kyun were pictured at the outing.
The world's largest smartphone maker is a challenging puzzle for Google. Recent reports indicate that Google is nervous about Samsung's size allowing it to try to force Google to abandon its position as a non-biased third-party platform provider. At the same time Google is well aware that Samsung is working on a new Linux-based smartphone OS -- Tizen -- with Intel. Thus Google must tread cautiously.
But ultimately the problem may be fixing itself, via Google's other host on the visit -- LG.
LG Electronics started the smartphone wars sluggishly, which led to the ouster of then-CEO Nam Yong. The gadgetmaker refreshed its management, installing Koo Bon-Joon as its new CEO. Under Mr. Koo's leadership the phonemaker began to recover, with the smartphone unit first returning to profitability in 2011. LG has since quietly become a power player in the Android market. And with LG emerging as a strong second-place Android phonemaker, Samsung's potential leverage over Google may naturally erode.
The KT report cites sources as saying, "Larry Page invited Koo for a meeting while he stayed in Seoul last week. They discussed ways to improve their business partnership. The meeting lasted for more than an hour."
LG and Google Rumored to be Working on Glasses, Nexus TV, and Nexus 5
Multiple sources have all but confirmed that LG is working to make the next generation Google-branded Nexus smartphone, following the success of its Nexus 4. The high-end smartphone is rumored to be codenamed "Megalodon" and pack a 5-inch 1080p OLED screen. It will reportedly launch at Google I/O later this month. LG is also working on an Android smartphone with a flexible display for the holiday season.
Google Glass is another key joint effort between LG and Google. LG does not make the current dev-model Glass devices, however, it is expected to release future devices of this form factor, driven by Google technology. Both companies are working on both the hardware and software side to mature the project. LG last week received a new patent U.S. Patent No. 8,427,396 which covers a "Head mounted display and method of outputting a content using the same in which the same identical content is displayed."
LG's new technology could offer improved augmented reality displays for Google Glass, such as overlaid text message readouts or turn-by-turn directions.
While Samsung insists on developing its own proprietary software for its SmartTVs, LG completed in 2012 a deal to adopt Google TV. It only launched two models in 2012, but this year it's looking to expand the mix of Google TV's in its lineup, which primarily features SmartTVs with a proprietary OS. LG is trying to figure out how best to balance Google TV, its recent purchase webOS, and its older proprietary OS in its line.
Google's TV OS has struggled, but the company doggedly continues to pursue it, expecting this to emerge as a key market. Reportedly Google may look to pair with LG to do a special "Nexus TV" OLED set, beating rival Apple to the market with a flagship model.
LG is second place in the LCD TV market, currently, trailing Samsung, according to Display Search's March 2013 numbers. But LG is expected to see gains as the first major manufacturer to release a large form factor OLED TV. It also released an eye-catching curved 55-inch OLED design, which is currently on sale for roughly ~$13,000 USD and only available in South Korea (for now).