European antitrust investigators train sights on Google over Android

“European regulators are preparing what could be a stern challenge to Google Inc’s mobile software business in the coming months after a nearly four-year investigation into the company’s Web search practices left rivals and European politicians dissatisfied,” Foo Yun Chee and Alexei Oreskovic report for Reuters. “Two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said that with a new antitrust chief taking over in November, European regulators are laying the groundwork for a case centered on whether Google abuses the 80 percent market share of its Android mobile operating system to promote services from maps to search. The Commission has stepped up inquiries just in recent weeks, sending companies questionnaires that seek far more details than previous queries on the matter in 2011 and 2013.”

“In one questionnaire seen by Reuters, respondents were asked whether there was a requirement set by Google, written or unwritten, that they not pre-install apps, products or services on mobile devices that compete with Google software like its search engine, app store and maps,” Chee and Oreskovic report. “While any company is free to use the open-source Android as they choose, mobile handset makers that want to use the newest version must sign a contract that stipulates a minimum number of Google services be pre-installed on devices, according to a third source, a former Google executive with knowledge of the matter.”

“The European Commission is likely to start a formal probe into Android once it wraps up an investigation into whether Google ranks its own services higher than those of its rivals in search results, according to the two people with knowledge of the matter,” Chee and Oreskovic report. “One of the sources said going after Android would help stem a growing chorus of complaints.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple takes the world’s best customers, the bulk of the profits, and leaves the mid-low end with its attendant unit share and antitrust headaches to Google. Genius!

9 Comments

  1. Of course google has a monopoly.

    Talk about déjà vu – I remember all this was about Microsoft.

    History repeats itself, the only thing that changes is the name of the company.

  2. This case has absolutely no chance of succeeding.

    ““In one questionnaire seen by Reuters, respondents were asked whether there was a requirement set by Google, written or unwritten, that they not pre-install apps, products or services on mobile devices that compete with Google software like its search engine, app store and maps.”

    A typical Samsung (for example) phones comes pre-loaded with 2, sometimes 3 sets of these. The Google apps, of course, but also the Samsung apps and also the carrier apps. Not just Samsung. So a Galaxy bought from AT&T will have Google email/maps/messaging/calendar, Samsung email/maps/messaging/calendar and AT&T maps/messaging, calendar. The issue is that everyone uses the Google maps/messaging/email/calendar apps because the bloatware apps from Samsung and the carriers stink.

    It took them FOUR YEARS to research this when they could have just walked to any retailer and borrowed a Galaxy? And this is totally different from Microsoft. The issue with Microsoft was that they made the browser part of the operating system so that people could not remove Internet Explorer even if they wanted to.

    Another thing: lots of Android companies do not use stock Android with the services pre-loaded. Most of the Asian companies do not, for instance. Some companies use CyanogenMod instead of stock Android (and CyanogenMod is better, faster, more stable etc.) Companies go with the Google Android because the Google services – the same that Apple used to preload on iPhones by the way – give them an advantage.

    Basically, Google is being punished because Microsoft stinks so badly that it can’t gain enough market share to be a viable third option.

    1. Your rebuttal would be credible except Google doesn’t allow google search, chrome, maps, youtube, etc to it’s android open source alliance. You have to agree to Google demands in order to use them on your phone.

      Aren’t they free apps on any/all other platforms? Very interesting strategy this “open” platform Google is touting.

      1. Part of the problem is that the 80% marketshare being quoted includes versions of Android that Google has no control over (e.g. cannot enforce placement of Google Apps).. Wonder how strong a case this would be once that is made clear. Also as atlman stated, it is also my experience that Google Android phones tend to have the carrier and OEM’s app versions of email/maps/messaging/calendar also installed.

          1. I suppose that depends on whether anyone really cares outside the court about the difference between Google Android (where Google has some control) and Android as a whole when comparing to other OSes. For the case in question it would only really apply to Google Android which may still beat out other OSes <20% total share and yet fall below any share that would indicate a true monopoly. As an aside, with current cases by regulatory agencies being refocused on 'other' businesses in the same industry by the primary 'accused', I wouldn't be surprised if the result of this case resulted in examining Apple's 'monopoly' power in refusing carriers to place carrier specific apps on iOS HW.

  3. Of course it’s abuse of market power.

    Suppose Microsoft, instead of Google, had “won over” all of the non-Apple OEMs, and then required Microsoft to be the default provider of maps, search, mail, etc. Google would immediately sue Microsoft – and rightly so! – for abusing their dominance in the mobile market to strengthen their position in online services.

    The only legitimate “defense” Google has is to claim that they already had monopolies in search, maps, mail, etc., and thus they aren’t using their mobile dominance to gain market power in online services. Of course, that just invites lawsuits related to all of their other services.

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