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Partnership between Google, Samsung shaky after verdict

SEOUL -- The strong partnership established between Samsung Electronics and Google appears to be shaking following a jury verdict at a San Jose court that turned against the Korean electronics maker.

Industry sources had claimed that the patent battle between Samsung — the top manufacturer of smartphones powered by Google's Android mobile platform — and Apple stems from the Cupertino-based firm's fight against Android.

“From what we know, this was originally a fight between Apple and Android. As proof to that, Apple's infringement claims raised against Samsung in the very beginning were very vague and general,” said a Samsung executive.

Former Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs also said in his biography that Android was “a stolen product” and that he would “go to thermonuclear war” on the issue.

Samsung and Google were known to be working closely together to defend against Apple, including on legal terms involving patents, and on designs, evidenced by an email Google sent to Samsung in 2010 about the need for a differentiated look from Apple's iPhone.

The partnership, however, seemed to be taking a new turn with Google's recent statement.

“The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don't relate to the core Android operating system and several are re-examined by the U.S. Patent Office,” Google said.

The statement indicated that the U.S. software giant was drawing the line between itself and its major customer Samsung, despite the fact that some features Apple said Samsung's wireless devices infringed are built into Android. They include features like pinching the screen or tapping to zoom.

With such a move staged by Google, Samsung is likely to shift further toward its multi-OS strategy — what it has stressed in the past — giving more weight to other mobile platforms including Microsoft's latest Windows 8 platform and another mobile operating system called Tizen.

“Samsung has always chosen the multi-OS strategy, not betting entirely on the Android,” said a Samsung official.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer implicitly displayed its partnership with Samsung by putting on its Windows 8 software demonstration on a Samsung-manufactured tablet PC during his visit to Seoul in May.

Tizen, a new open-source software platform, is one that Samsung is building together with the Linux Foundation and Intel.

As the firm has been integrating its proprietary Bada platform with Tizen, Samsung plans to apply the new platform on smartphones, netbooks and smart televisions as early as this year.

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