Required reading: Skyhook lawsuit sheds light on Google's power over manufacturers

Once upon a time there was a little story about Motorola ditching Google's location services in Android in favor of a company called Skyhook. And just a couple months after that little story came another -- Skyhook suing over unfair business practices after it was shut out and Moto went back to Google's services. And as the lawsuit has continued, a wealth of documents has shed light onto Google's relationships with manufacturers, how it wields control over the platform, and what that all means for you as a consumer.

Nilay Patel of This Is My Next (and formerly of Engadget) does a tremendous job of breaking it down. It's a fascinating look inside some of the decisions that have been made over the past year or so -- and even sheds some light on why Samsung struggled with shoddy GPS for so many months. If you read only one story today, make sure it's this one.

Source: This Is My Next

Phil Nickinson
  • Ok, putting on my blatant Google Fanboy hat for a minute..... Android phones get so much free stuff from Google, it seems only reasonable that google get some anonymous data back, most importantly for them being location data which is critical for so much of what they do. This memo states the gist of it:
    (Sorry, its a jpg): Also: kyhook’s XPS system failed the Android compatibility test: specifically, that the Android location service API is supposed to return locations derived “using satellites,” and deviation from the Android APIs is not allowed per the CTS. Since Skyhook determines location using WiFi hotspots and cell towers in addition to GPS satellites, it was deemed a CTS violation. I've had personal experience with Skyhook data, living near a lot of transient military folks. iPhone uses skyhook. When I had an iPhone the google maps feature in the iPhone would show me my correct location when in one room of my house, but at the other end of the house it would initially show me in Norfolk Virginia, and only after some several minutes would it determine my correct position. Reason: my neighbor, a navy doctor, had transfered from the east coast to the west coast. He brought his router with him. The iphone saw his router first at that end of the house, and even though it did not log into that router it gleaned the mac address from the beacon, and checked Skyhook, which was still reporting wrong data months later. There are 10 other routers in the neighborhood, but all it took was this one migrated router to mess up the iPhone using skyhook. It was up to him to go into skyhook web iste and report his router's new position. Up to HIM!!??? He's a doctor! And a good one. But like many doctors, he can barely find the on-off switch for his computer. So Google's worry about corruption of data is valid, even if their primary motive was cost control and data acquisition.
  • Apple exercises complete control over their platform yet no one cries foul, instead they applaud them. Google is being held to different standards. PS Great example above by icebike! :thumbsup:
  • The manufacturers cut cost in too many ways as it is. Screw Motorola until they release more products like the XOOM, vanilla and unlockable.
  • This could also explain rumors of Moto creating it's own OS, more control over their own products.
  • Yes, this incident plus their unhappiness at the delays of Honeycomb (including the delay of Google Music for it) are reasons why Motorola is considering rolling their own mobile OS, although they're idiots for thinking they can do so and be competitive (see: Nokia).
  • That's an excellent article, but I don't think Skyhook stands a chance on this part of their court fight. First of all, Google has the right to demand control of their handsets (literally, it's in the contracts between Google and the OEMs, and in the contracts between the OEMs and the carriers). The fact that Google used that right to further their own interests is...what's that word...oh yeah, business. Second, discovery has already shown that Google didn't actually forbid either Motorola or Samsung from using Skyhook services, they simple required that Skyhook not be used in place of Google's services, and that the data provided by Skyhook's location data be made compatible with Google's location data (Verizon, for example, has done this with their location-based services). This is an utterly reasonable stance, Skyhook could have still had their services used and got that data to collect, they're just pissed that they were going to have to share the data with Google. Now they have nothing at all and are even more pissed, but there's really not much they can do about it. The only area where Skyhook might have a chance is with their patent claim - and since I haven't seen the relevant documents I simply don't know if they have a claim or not. But they're going to lose big on the claim of Google acting illegally to deny them a contract with Motorola and Samsung.
  • Piggy backing on what everyone is saying but also adding, Google isn't even forbidding any OEM from using any other location services, all their saying is they can't use the "with Google" brand on the phone. If Skyhook is upset, shouldn't it be directed at Moto because they wanted the "with Google" brand on the phone? Samsung had no problem not including it on the fascinate for Verizon. Google has every right to not put their name on any device they deem not to their standards, but they will still let you use Android. If you want your company's name in some headlines, sue Google seems to be the trend right now.
  • @Phil: Thanks for getting my attention "If you read only one story today, make sure it's this one". Great piece of journalism and I have added TIMN to my favorites so I can round there more. Great to see those folks landing on their feet after Engadget. As for the content, I am utterly speechless. I can only think "wow, what a saga that goes on behind the scenes of these toys we love to play with". Perspective changer.