We had anecdotal evidence yesterday, but today it's admitted fact: Sprint has confirmed that a software update for the Samsung Galaxy S III will disable the universal search function on the handset. "The new software update does disable the universal search function on Galaxy S III," a representative told Phone Scoop. In other words, on a Galaxy S III device, you'll only be able to initiate a web search from the Google search bar, not search for locally-installed apps, contacts, and the like.
Why nerf the feature? The move is likely directly related to the ongoing Apple v. Samsung lawsuit. Google and Samsung were working together on a software patch for the Galaxy Nexus to remove the very same feature, in order to help sidestep a US ban of that phone, and it seems that Samsung has applied the same idea to its flagship Galaxy S III to avoid lawsuits there as well. We're still waiting to see if other OEMs will follow suit. So far, the Galaxy Nexus hasn't received such a patch, though, even though Google just pushed out an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update to GSM versions of the device.