Android

Microsoft, Nokia, Oracle and others call Android 'a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps'

A group of Google's competitors have sent an antitrust complaint to the EU, claiming that the search giant's licensing of the Android OS and Google Apps give its mobile apps an unfair advantage. Reports from the New York Times say Fairsearch Europe, which consists of Microsoft, Nokia, Oracle, TripAdvisor and others, accuses Google of using Android “as a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps in 70 percent of the smartphones shipped today.”

According to today's NYT report, Fairsearch's lead lawyer, Thomas Vinje says OEMs wanting to use Google mobile apps (e.g. YouTube, Gmail, Chrome) on their Android devices "face contractual requirements" to use all these apps and give them "prominent placement" on their home screens. The suite of Google Mobile Services (GMS) apps are, of course, licensed separately to the Android OS, the source code of which is available freely.

Fairsearch pulls no punches in a press release this morning, claiming "Google’s predatory distribution of Android at below-cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform." It goes on to say the prominent placement of Google apps on devices running GMS apps "disadvantages other providers."

Following the filing of a complaint, the European Commission must now decide whether to take up the case against Google, the paper reports.

The news comes in the midsts of an existing EU antitrust inquiry into Google's web search practices, in which it's claimed the company abused its position to push its own web-based services. According to the NYT, antitrust chief Joaquín Almunia said the EU was already looking into Android separately to the web search complaint.

Source: New York Times; Fairsearch Europe (PDF) via The Verge

 

Reader comments

Competitors launch European antitrust complaint against Google over mobile apps

63 Comments

MS is saying that Google is leveraging its position as the developer of the platform to unfairly promote its own apps. Um...Windows 7, 8, and RT all restrict users (forcibly) to just one web browser: Internet Explorer.

iOS is similarly restrictive, as Chrome isn't a truly independant browser on it (hence why Firefox isn't willy to develop for iOS).

Also, distributing "below cost?" That tells me they don't really get what "open source" means. Seems to me that the competitors are salty because their own business practices aren't working anymore.

Though, I do think Google should take away the requirement to have Google apps "prominently featured on the home screen" of new devices (if that's true).

Great points. I would add that the homescreen is customizeable to add or remove literally any app or widget anyway.

The whole thought of MS or APPLE accusing others of things they habitually do is comical...

Google has apps on ios and windows phones. MS turned down having google maps for their own crappy maps, and also want to promote their own mail app. EFF MS. MS can't do anything with mobile cause they suck and can't get any good devs to come to them. Maybe if they didn't drag Google through the mud and claim BS litigation suits Google would of done them a solid. Any business has the right to refuse service to anyone. They just want the Google apps without having to pay Google anything like Apple wants. Apple hated losing money to Google over the maps.

Let's also not forget the fact that their latest scroogled slander campaign just pissed off every android developer out there for saying their user metrics are a bad thing. Who cares if the developer knows my email and general location. Guess what Microsoft, the GAP has the same info when you buy a pair of pants. I don't see you accusing them of privacy infringements.

If anything, you are highlighting that developers in your store get to know less about the people using their apps. I think I would want to know that so I can tailor future versions to suit my demographic.

Windows 7 and Windows 8 absolutely do not lock users into just one browser. You can install Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, or any other browser you choose on either Windows 7 or 8. Windows RT is a different situation, you, in theory, can build another browser for RT, but it wouldn't be as good as IE do to not being allowed access to certain functions (similar to the browser situation on iOS, although given RT's miniscule market share, it isn't really a competition issue). In fact, in the EU (where this case is) there is a browser selection window that pops up the first time you start your Windows 7 or 8 machine that presents serveral (IE, Chrome, Firefox, etc) browser options in a random order and you select which you'd like to be your default from day 1.

Microsoft underwent these same battles on the desktop and lost. I see no reason a mobile OS (Android) with 70% market share (in the region the suit is filed in) should be held to a different standard than a desktop OS (Windows) that has similar market share numbers.

I use Chrome and IE, Android and Windows 7 and RT. I've also used iOS and Windows Phone. I'm a fairly platform agnostic/non-fanboy type person. I like quality. Competition breeds quality, monopolies and ologopolies breed stagnation and second rate products. I support any restrictions/requirements that promote competition. If Google has to compete for attention on Android more directly with its competitors, it will just have to make sure its apps stay ahead of its competitors and deliver a more satisfying experience than anyone else offers. I don't see how that is bad for anyone.

Sorry, that was supposed to be "Windows Phone 7 and 8," which absolutely do restrict browsers.

I agree that more competition is good, I'm simply stating that I think Google is forcing its hand a lot less than ANY of the other mobile platforms (with the possible exception of BB10, which I don't know a ton about yet).

For the record, I'm a big Windows 7 fan--I'm using it right now. :-)

This isn't what it appears to be on the surface. Do some research on Fairshare. It's a conglomerate of old breed of corporations that can't adapt and compete in fair free markets with Google, so they are resorting gaining artificial leverage with smear campaigns and antitrust complaints. This is not remotely the same thing as the DOJ vs Microsoft in the 1990's.

I have to say this....
I bought a phone running Android because I want to use Google Services. If I wanted to use iServices I'd buy an iDevice. If I want use Microsoft services I'd download their apps on my Google device.

Oh wait, Microsoft develops crappy apps for their services on Android.

These companies need to make services I want to use or give me access to use them on the device that I choose.

Basically they need to quit whining about how they're not smart enough to run their companies.

Nokia should have thought of the problems they would have before jumping into bed with Microsoft. I bet Nokia is kicking themselves in the ass for signing up with the other team. I would have loved to seen some of that great Nokia hardware on Android phones.

With new Windows 8 based computers, what comes loaded all over the place? IE, Bing, and a bunch of Microsoft applications. Now, a valid complaint would be that when you go to google.com to do a search, Chrome is pushed on the page, so I could see THAT as a complaint, but to complain when the OS maker provides its own browser and other tools? What about Apple computers being loaded with Safari? How about Apple pushing Quicktime with no option not to load that POS on system startup?

If others have a problem with how well Google has done with Android, perhaps they should consider how game consoles are done, where Sony and Microsoft sell the consoles at a loss when first launched, with the idea that you not only need to seed a new product in the marketplace, but also that you get more by encouraging licensing and other fees to developers and such. That is the way the world works at this point.

So... they're mad because Google gives away Android and their apps for free, creating an unfair advantage because they can't sell their crap? [Face Palm]

This is nothing more than Microsoft and it's industry partners pretending to be all independent.

Microsoft's desperation is all to clear with this. But rather than trying to force the world to take it sub-par products (WindowsPhone/Windows8/Surface/Xbox/Zune), they would rather knobble Google who are making products that consumers want.

This is quite clearly anti-consumer. It's asking you to support sub-par products and it's asking you to penalise companies like Google making products that consumers want.

I don't think making choice easier to access will EVER be anti-consumer. The EU already requires MS to offer a browser selection screen in Windows instead of defaulting to IE so that more joe blow non-techy consumers have access to third party browsers. I don't see a similar set-up on Android being bad. If anything, it will drive all the parties to improve their Android applications to make them more competitive.

Any time a new app that opens a generic link or file type Android OS gives users the option to use whichever app they want to use to access the file/link etc. Android has the options and it is wide open. At the end of the day the user chooses channel.

The problem with this is that Google already gives companies a choice: either accept our licensing terms, or don't sell our stuff. You can use Android, but sell your own stuff, or a competitor's stuff....just not OUR stuff. That's no different than other industries, and quite different than what Microsoft did. Microsoft purposely designed the browser so it couldn't be separated from the OS. Google allows companies to use whatever browser they want (take note of Amazon and how well they have done for example). If they want to use Google's own browser (for example) though they have to agree to their terms. That's completely fair.

Windows Phone is restrictive, but I wouldn't call it bad. The Surface hardware is pretty darn good, and the Zune was awesome (sorry, but it's true). I don't think it's fair to lump these all together as sub-par.

I do think it's anti-customer to keep these stupid lawsuits up, but I also think that simply removing the need to display Google apps on the home screen on first startup would clear this matter up. I'm fine with that.

What a load of crap, they provide an email client that can provide access to numerous other services, a open app store and the ability to make any app front and center.

Don't want to use Google services at all, fine create an android phone without gapps.

Plenty of ROMs come with that. Of course we're talking about rooting and loading on your own ROM. But wouldn't it be nice if all hardware manufacturers released the vanilla, and I mean true vanilla OS so we could load what we want, how we want and make the phone truly ours?

The geeks are the minority, believe it or not. No Android phone would sell to the general consumer like this.

I think it's unfair that I have to use Siri on an iOS device and it gives me results skewed to favor Apple products. For example: ask it what the best smartphone is.

it appears thats what big business is about nowadays. @Gekko

I dont understand this "prominent placement"
1 you can change the set up of your homescreen,
2 you can disable any preinstalled apps
3 should they ship without a browser or an email client? maybe just a blank app drawer. dont even include the phone app while your at it.

google makes the phone sofware so google ask that you leave their apps within. make your own kick ass OS and you can call the shots

i guarantee i cannot find a laptop that ships with any version of windows that doesnt have IE preinstalled.

Preinstalled and prominently displayed on your desktop. :-)

I also customize my Windows desktop--in fact, the first thing I typically do is remove the IE shortcut.

I'm willing to bet you'd go so far as to remove IE if you could.

Talk about a screwjob by Microsoft - "Hey, here's our browser. We built it into the OS now, so you really can't get rid of it. I guess we'll let you hide the shortcut though."

I know Google hasn't gone that far (yet) with Android, and I don't think they would. I'm sorry to say that based on where I work and what choices I've seen made (no, I do not work for Google - sadly), I'm not surprised that Android is doing as well as it is.

I love Google, but honestly this is a valid complaint. One of my biggest frustrations with Android (and what may eventually push me to windows phone) is the level of platform independence. If I want to use Android I, I really need to use their services to get the most out of it. If you compare this with the complaints leveled against Microsoft with IE, what Google is doing is on a MUCH more massive and impacting scale.

I love you google, and I think you do what's right the large majority of the time. However, Android could definitely use a little bit of push toward platform independence. However, they are giving it away for free which Microsoft never pretended to do.

To be fair, you have to do the same for Windows Phone and iOS devices too. You don't get the full experience on either without signing into their services.

Granted, right now on the Windows Phone you're less likely to notice this. I can't speak about iOS too much yet since I've only recently gotten a MacBook Pro, and only because my job told me I had to use it. Thankfully it's not my primary desktop/laptop device.

I don't understand what you mean at all. Android is the only one of the major smartphones that you CAN use without compulsory accounts and still call it a smartphone. You can use one without ever making a Google account and still install apps or do anything else you want on it. Google can be disabled completely by the oem or the end user without missing anything. Try doing the same with on an iPhone or Windows phone and see what you can still do.

dude, are you serious? all I am going to say is google is shoving google+ down my throat, I cant leave a damn review on an app without joining google+ ... umm are you serious?

you cant defend that man. I LOVE my Evo LTE but this filed complaint isn't as crazy as most of you wanna believe.

Obviously you don't understand the difference between Android and gapps (Google Apps). The Play Store is part of gapps, and Google is well within their rights to tie usage of their apps together. Every other mobile OS does it (look at iOS, the App Store, and iTunes for example). If you don't like that....don't use the Play Store. That's what makes Google's strategy different. Everyone else wants to lock you into their ecosystem.

Google says "if you want to use our stuff, we will try to get you to use ALL of our stuff, but we WON'T force you to use our stuff to use Android." There are PLENTY of other app stores you can use (for example: the Amazon App Store and AppBrain). Name another mobile OS that allows you to do that? You can't, because none of them do.

This complaint is ridiculous, as Android is far more open to competitors than ANY of its competition. Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, et al., are just mad that Google is essentially forcing them to reduce their pricing (and thus profits) on the OS and their app suites, thus the comment on Google distributing Android "below cost". They don't want to compete with free, open-source software...not when it's as good or better than their own offerings, as the OEMs and public have spoken on which they will choose.

I am coming into this discussion almost a year later; however, I recently decided to deactivate my Google+ account because of some security vulnerabilities that arose with it, where an unauthorized user attempted to gain access to my google accounts through what appeared to be the google+ account. I was therefore dismayed when I tried to rate an Android app through Google's Play Store and found out the only way I could now do that was by either reactivating my prior google+ account or signing up for a new one.

I respect the arguments that, as compared to Apple and the iPhone systems, Google is a much less "company store" environment or sole source monopoly when it comes to the Android OS. However, requiring app users like me who in all likelihood already have several Google apps on their Android phones and may even use Gmail &/or the Chrome browser, to sign up for yet another Google service and, apparently in my case perhaps, one that creates increased vulnerability to unwanted and unauthorized access to my Google account , is unfortunate. Google may have tort liability. Issues to contend with as well.

Platform independence... you keep using that word. It does not mean what you think it means.

Go find me a non-Nexus phone that DOESN'T have a gazillion account options when first signing in. I mean the manufacturer included software contains a ridiculous amount of extra apps. Hotmail, yahoo mail, gmail, corporate email, blah blah; its ALL there. And each carrier has its own map app and navigation crap added. Google Chrome doesn't even come pre-installed; you have to install that separately (and it does not even run on pre-ICS devices). On a Nexus device, you can ALMOST make this argument, but those devices are sold as pure google devices and do not represent even a small percentage of total android phones out there.

This is a cash-grab attempt by the Loser Corps who can't figure out how to navigate the 21st century.

I disagree, as Google has not stopped a single company from using whatever apps they want on Android, whether that company's own or a Google competitor's. All they say is that if you want to use Google's own app suit then that's what set as default on the homescreen. Look at Amazon's Kindles: they chose the route of using their own apps, and they sell quite well. Look at Verizon: they install Amazon's App Store, but the Play Store is the one on the main home screen since they wanted to use gapps. This is completely different from Microsoft bundling everything into the OS, and designing it so it ran all the time and couldn't be separated from the OS. Google purposefully designed gapps so Android doesn't need it. If a company wants to make an Android device with their own app store, browser, email client, mapping app, etc., there is nothing stopping them from doing so....they just can't preinstall and sell Google's own apps.

Is Apple or Microsoft saying "hey, if you want to make a device with our OS Google, but don't want to use our apps suite, you can completely remove it and use GMail, Chrome, Google Maps, etc."? Hell no, because then they wouldn't have control of the product being sold, and they know plenty of people wouldn't WANT their inhouse apps. Apple won't even let a third-party MAKE an iOS device. Google, on the other hand, DOESN'T CARE ABOUT CONTROLLING ANDROID. Companies can customize it to their hearts content, and install whatever app suite they want. Google cares about gapps, because that is what drives eyeballs to their services and advertising.

Microsoft's, Apple's, etc. real beef with Android is that by making it open-source they can no longer gain insane profit margins for their own products...not when the open-source product is as good or better than their own. They are fighting against being commoditized, where the profit has to be made on services and advertising, instead of the OS and core apps like they are used to. Google, on the other hand, has always leveraged services and advertising, and has become the market leader in that area. In other words: Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, etc. need to change or die. They are swiftly becoming dinosaurs, and this effort represents nothing else than the desire to keep things the same as they have been.

Oh yeah, Google sure has prevented Samsung from making any money right? These other companies should stop whining and make better apps / experiences. Then the money will come.

I struggle to see how Google is doing any more to leverage their own brand in their product than any of the other big players such as Microsoft, Apple and, to a lesser extent, RIM. It seems only natural to showcase one's other services where possible, and Android arguably has more room for third party options than the others. What should come as the bigger suprise here isn't that Google is pushing their services, but that the others apparently are not.

It's interesting that the European courts take this seriously when it's readily apparent that these companies do this because they believe this to be easier than doing what competition should be about - having the better product.

I stopped reading about halfway through because of the ridiculousness of the situation. My takeaway? Of course these companies are complaining NOW, when Android has all this market share. -__-

Exactly! I for one remember when Android was first announced. Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, RIM....they ALL laughed and said an open-source OS couldn't possibly compete with a closed-source one. The laugh is on them now, because Google proved that open-source works when given enough resources to do so. Since they can't compete price-wise with a product that is free, and they can't compete on product since Android is arguably as good or better than their products in every area, how do you then compete? You stymie progress and product development using the legal system. That's EXACTLY what's been going on the past 3 years.

Ive always hated anti-trust cases, whoever is being accused. It just sounds like a lot of moaning because something is popular when you arent.

It's only a matter of time before Google Search/Ads, Google Apps and Android/Chrome are broken into separate companies.

Really, Microsoft with all of their office products and Xbox 360 apps and Nokia with N- Drive and city view, I guess if you can't beat them cry and sue!

I think this is a bogus law-suit as well, but having worked at Sprint I can safely say that many people who buy smartphones, dont even realize or know how to move icons around in fact most leave what on the main screen, on the main screen. So although you can move icons around there is a large group of people that don't

Microsoft, Nokia, Oracle and others call Android 'a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps'

Can't Google correct this for them (at least in reference to Microsoft);

Google and others call Windows Phone 'a deceptive way to build advantages for key Windows apps'

As much as I do love Google and Android, Microsoft and others do have a point from a legal standpoint. It wasn't that long ago that Microsoft was in this very same situation when Microsoft was sitting on top of the world, Windows was dominating and Apple was the company everyone was laughing at, unless you were in the video, animation, or music industry. Microsoft got into hot water over Internet Explorer and was accused of using their dominance in the PC industry to shut out the competition in the Browser wars.

Now, Google is in a similar position (albeit not exactly the same situation as Microsoft's) And Microsoft is saying that Google is using its dominant position in the market place to shut out the competition on its mobile apps services.

This is true, but Mircosoft actively denied people the ability to use Netscape Navigator, which completely destroyed the company.

Google isn't doing anything like that. I'm fine with removing a Chrome shortcut from the homescreen, but beyond that, I think they're fine.

So if I'm understanding this correctly, Microsoft et.al. are complaining that Google isn't presenting to the users in a first run scenario a list of choices for apps such as browsers etc, like they are with Windows. To which I can only assume if regional to where the complaint is filed. Because here in the USA Microsoft is guilty of the same thing they are complaining about. As Windows for PCs prominently features their apps and users wishing to not use them have to seek them out just like those on android who would choose not to use Google's apps.

When Microsoft sells off Office like they should have, then I'll give a care what they have to say. Office is the crappiest office suite that ever existed. The only reason MS won out is because they blackmailed the manufacturers into putting thier pos on systems.

This is true! Most of the younger folks don't know this though, as they weren't around for it. I remember MS forcing PC manufacturers to include Word and Excel for free to the consumer to gain market share. EVERY PC sold to schools had to include it in order to keep their Windows licenses. Wordperfect and Lotus 1-2-3 at the time were better, but it made no difference when Word and Excel were "good enough" and "free". I had this exact reasoning thrown at me by my college when they were adding a new computer lab and asked me for assistance (hey, it was a small college lol). Hell, if software patents existed back then Word and Excel wouldn't exist, as Microsoft basically did their best to copy those two applications.

The big difference between Microsoft and Google is that MS wanted to eliminate competition so they could raise the prices for their software to insane levels, while Google just wants people to hopefully use their services. Google isn't trying to lock anybody in: they compete by trying to provide better services than anybody else, and they are doing a good job at that right now.

so...who is quallified here for speaking for google defence? who knows the law good enough and who knows full list of accusations made by ms,nokia ect?
it seems that fanboyism is here and if google is innocent ,court will decide in their favour....if not...well.....you know the deal

Amazon pretty much prove android is open and doesn't require bundling google apps.

Microsoft are being very hypocritical. There was a guy who was hacking windows phones to backport new features into old firmwares added MS stopped him. Then they lock the boot loader and hardware of the surface RT. Windows 8 requires locked down hardware and originally it would have stopped any other OS being installed at all.

All nokia Symbian phones have locked bootloaders and its not possible to customise the packages on phone.

Their actions are sour grapes pre and simple.

And BlackBerry's use of android compatibility libraries to make it run android is another sign of how android came be used and abused without Google's permission

Microsoft, is anticompetitiveness the only way you know how to compete? This is a new low and yes I know it isn't just them but I guarantee they spearheaded it. They are the ones who came up with "Fairsearch" after all.

Does Windows Phone 8 not come preinstalled with all the Microsoft products? (Bing, outlook, skype, etc.). Yes it does but they are pissed off because they can't sell a fraction of what Google does with Android. If they had a meaningful market share this wouldn't be a conversation.

The ironic part of it all is that Android is the only mobile OS where you can swap out defaults, making their point moot. If you want, you can strip every google service off of your phone. You can't do that on Windows Phones.