Google’s Android really isn’t ‘open’ at all

“Google Inc. says its Android mobile operating system is ‘open,'” Rolfe Winkler reports for The Wall Street Journal. “But newly discovered documents reveal the strings attached.”

“The documents show that Google has imposed strict restrictions on device makers that want access to its search engine, YouTube or the more than one million apps in its Play Store,” Winkler reports. “In return, the device makers must feature other Google apps and set Google search as the default for users, according to the agreements. European antitrust authorities are examining those conditions, among others, as they consider whether Google has abused Android’s position as the leading smartphone operating system. In Europe, companies with dominant market share are required to promote competition, said Ioannis Lianos, a professor at University College London who studies competition law.”

“There is no such requirement in the U.S., and experts said it would be difficult to show that Google’s Android stance has violated antitrust rules. But it conflicts with Google’s rhetoric,” Winkler reports. “‘One of the greatest benefits of Android is that it fosters competition at every level of the mobile market—including among application developers,’ Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt wrote to then-U.S. Senator Herb Kohl in 2011.”

“Google also exercises control over device makers through the Open Handset Alliance, which counts 84 members, according to its website,” Winkler reports. “The European Commission last year began studying whether Google’s Android distribution practices run afoul of antitrust rules. The commission’s top antitrust cop, Joaquín Almunia, said last week that it will shift its focus to Android now that it has reached a settlement with Google over its search practices.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Fragmandroid is certainly open for malware:

(U//FOUO) Threats to Mobile Devices Using the Android Operating System - U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice
(U//FOUO) Threats to Mobile Devices Using the Android Operating System – U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Scott M.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Why Google Android software is not as free or open as some think – January 24, 2014
Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling ‘open’ source by any means necessary – October 31, 2013
Microsoft, Oracle, over a dozen others call for EU probe of Google over Android – April 9, 2013
How Google controls Android: digging deep into the Skyhook filings – May 12, 2011
Google used Android compatibility as ‘club’ against Skyhook – May 9, 2011

26 Comments

  1. No surprise to anyone who’s followed what is going on in mobile media.

    This is business war and Eric, the mold, Schmidt planned it this way to take over mobile enough to keep Google on top of search results income.

    1. There may be drawbacks and rules, but I don’t see how it could have anything to do with “monopoly” considerations.

      Just because you are popular and have over 50% of a given market doesn’t make you a monopolist. Don’t you have to control the supply and demand of other related products and companies to be a monopoly?

      Apple doesn’t license its OS. It can’t make exclusive deals with anyone. It can’t threaten to withhold OS X if an OEM wants to use another OS as well.

      So, you have Coca-Cola: They are probably more a monopolist than Apple could ever be… they have exclusive deals with all McDonald’s restaurants worldwide, and vending machine deals with schools, for example.

      But Apple can’t get in trouble for selling only Apple devices in its own Apple Stores! Even if 99% of all people decide to buy one.

  2. Google provided firm confirmation on its strict restrictions limiting faulty default settings. Antitrust officials didn’t trust Google’s purported support for Europe’s petition for fostering competition.

  3. Android is open source. You are free to dump google’s apps and do whatever you want with Android if you choose.

    If you want to brand your device as android and offer Google’s software platform then yeah you are going to have some restrictions per the agreement you willingly signed.

    Why this is hard for some people to grasp is beyond me.

    1. Apparenly, Google is even too stupid to grasp that concept, then. Google promotes a crap OS on their phones, which they call Android, as “open” and thus somehow better than iOS. That’s the problem. Google promotes “open is better” to sell their crap, but then what you buy is not open at all.

      Why is that so hard for you to grasp?

  4. IF (a truly important IF) Google’s contracts actually *require* any Android licensee to make Google’s search function the default then they may run afoul of anti-trust laws. You can’t use one product that is a monopoly to prop up (or expand) the market share of another product.

    Depending upon who you talk to (or what you read) Android commands between 60% and 90% of the “smartphone” (using that term very loosely) market. Is that a monopoly? Depends upon who you ask. Some interpretations of what is a monopoly have gone below a 50% market share with the only requirement that the monopolist have “effective control” of the market.

    It will be up to the DOJ to decide if the Android–Google Search tie fits the definition of improperly tying the two together.

    No matter what happens, this, if true, indicates a bad future for Android App developers.

    1. The major misunderstanding that is proliferated is that Google Android = Android.. Google has claimed ‘Android’ is open source which has yet to be disproved. Google Android is the combination of Android with Google specific services. If you want to use Google services you sign an agreement with them and agree to be bound by having to install the entire package and not cherry pick. Unlike Windows which did not have this separation, Google will be harder to pin-down as an OS monopoly.

  5. That’s the price you pay for the OS being free. It would be great if this was found to be anti-competitive. Knowing the rate that courts make decisions I don’t think Google have anything to worry about. Just look at M$; by the time they were punished most of the competition had shut down.

    1. Unlikely unless you lock someone into only using your search engine.. You can download apps that allow you to use other Search Engines on Android and make that your default.. Making Google Search the original ‘default’ does not necessarily make it anti-competitive.

      1. Well, there could be other leverage that Google would use (is using?), too…

        For example, if an OEM wants to ditch “Google Android” and Google Services to make its own fork, on *some* of their phones, will Google deny them the services for other phones?

        This may be determined by Google on a case by case basis: for example, some Chinese OEMs may be doing both, since Google isn’t welcome within China anyway. Google may be allowing Huwahei or whomever to sell a fork internally, *and* Google Android phones outside China.

        Not so sure how Google feels about Samsung doing this. I think they are trying to bring Samsung “back in line”. There was some talk about this as Google sold Motorola. So, maybe Samsung has to get Tizen (or whatever they are working on) totally ready, and be confident that they can compete with Google Services, because it may be that they have to do an all or nothing switch at some point.

  6. Fandroids are easily the NSA’s best documented citizens. Since most neckbearded iHaters are known to have jihadist/terrorist tendencies this may not actually be a bad thing.

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