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Skyhook filings detail Google's tight control of Android platform

post #1 of 57
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A lawsuit by Skyhook Wireless alleging patent infringement and business interference by Google has resulted in the release of large amounts of documentation detailing the Android-maker's tactics in maintaining control over its ostensibly open platform.

A report by Nilay Patel of This is my next digs through more than 750 pages of documents unsealed by the court.

"Perhaps surprisingly," Patel wrote, "its relatively clear from the evidence that Google is the major gatekeeper between OEMs and the market."

The documents reveal that Google has unique agreements with different hardware makers, and that each Android license has an expiration date.

In addition to the core Android software and its Linux kernel, which are largely freely available for unrestricted use, Google maintains tight control over its own layer of proprietary apps, which contribute much of the value of the Android platform.

Google's control over Android devices is no more open than Apple's App Store approvals

Google's contracts leverage the company's own, closed Android apps (including Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube and Android Market) to block competing services (such as Skyhook's location services) or prevent unapproved devices from appearing on the market, the evidence indicates.

"In order for a specific device to get a license for the [Google] apps, it must pass the Android Compatibility Test Suite and meet the Android Compatibility Definition," Patel explained. "How Google exactly determines what passes the test is really the core issue in this case Skyhook claims Google uses the threat of incompatibility to act anti-competitively."

Google's Android licenses with hardware partners allow the company to change the tests and compatibility definitions at any time, "so basically theres nothing keeping Google from changing the CTS or ACD any way it wants in order to keep a particular device off the market," the report noted.

While hardware makers are free to build Android devices that aren't rated as compliant by Google and ship without the search giant's apps, there is no market for such "open" devices because hardware makers' carrier contracts require Google's apps. "If Motorola shipped software that didnt have Googles blessing (and apps)," Patel wrote, "it would immediately violate its contracts with carriers."

Google vetoes Motorola partnership with Skyhook

Core to the lawsuit by Skyhook is a decision by Google to threaten a "stop ship issue" to block approval of Motorola's Droid X phone last summer because Motorola had contracted with Skyhook to provide location data services for the phone's users.

Google first learned of the partnership between Motorola and Skyhook in an online news article, setting off an email discussion between Google's executives that is documented in the Skyhook legal filings.

Google's location product manager Steven Lee wrote to company co-founder Larry Page, "The risk we face is if Skyhook creates a perception in the industry that they are way better [in providing location data], then more and more partners will switch to them without doing much testing or due diligence themselves.

"And that would be awful for Google, because it will cut off our ability to continue collecting data to maintain and improve our location database. If that happens, we can easily wind up in the situation we were in before creating our own location database and that is (a) having no access at all or (b) paying exorbitant costs for access."

In May 2010, Google initially told Motorola that using Skyhook's service would contaminate Google's own location database. Motorola then verified that Skyhook had passed the Android compatibility test. But Google maintained that Skyhook's system could not be approved and issued a "stop ship" order to Motorola, resulting in decision by Motorola chief executive Sanjay Jha to pull Skyhook from the Droid X to enable it to reach the market.

Arbitrary and capricious

Before Motorola could ship the new Droid X, however, Samsung delivered its Android-based Galaxy S smartphone with Skyhook's location service installed, prompting Motorola to ask why Google was putting it in "in an uncompetitive position." Google's response was that "Motorola should not be concerned with other OEMs and their devices."

At the launch announcement of Droid X in late June, Motorola complained to Google that "its unacceptable to be put in a position which limits our ability to compete, saying that the company was in the process of getting 40 other Android devices through the approval process, and that "over half have been impacted by requirements which were not available or clear prior to submission."

Google responded, "controlling fragmentation on an open platform to ensure that Android is a success will mean that we learn some lessons the hard way. Having a vibrant ecosystem around an un-fragmented platform is in everyones interest, so we all have to bear the burdens."

Motorola's difficulty in getting Android models approved by Google likely plays into the company's decision to develop its own Linux-based smartphone platform independent of Android.

Skyhook alleges anti-competitive behavior by Google

Meanwhile, Skyhook was insisting to Motorola that its location service was being deemed incompatible by Google based solely on the interpretation of the word satellites and not for any technical or performance reason. Patel notes that "Skyhook also claimed it was not shown any documentation from Google saying that XPS [Skyhook's location service] was not compliant with the Android compatibility document."

Skyhook offered to solve any potential 'data contamination' problem by disabling location data collection by Google's apps, but Motorola responded that its Android license required that Google's apps be allowed to collect location data, and that its carrier contracts require that Google's apps be installed on its phones.

In July, Motorola again complained about Samsung's Google-approved use of Skyhook, to which Google responded that Samsung had also stopped using Skyhook's services. Motorola subsequently told Skyhook that "Android devices are approved 'essentially at Googles discretion,' and that Motorola could not afford to break its relationship with Google," according to the report on the documentation.

The next month, Motorola terminated its contract with Skyhook, saying that the company had made unauthorized statements to the press and had "failed to deliver a functioning product that can be loaded on Motorola Android-based products."

Skyhook subsequently sued Google for business interference, launching a case very similar to the charges that Microsoft faced in the 90s for contractually obligating the bundling of an unremovable Internet Explorer web browser on Windows PCs to erase the market for third party browsers.

Android vs iOS

The Skyhook case demonstrates Google's increasing efforts to limit further fractionalization of Android by blocking the ability of third party hardware makers to release products or services using its own Android licensing and approval process, which goes above and beyond the Open Handset Alliance.

This makes Google's Android hardware platform for devices that are sold "with Google" as much under Google's control as the App Store is under Apple's strict curation.

Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs stated last fall that "Google loves to characterize Android as 'open' and iOS and iPhone as 'closed.' We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches."

Jobs described various Android app stores as "a mess for both users and developers" and noted that "many Android apps work only on selected handsets, or selected Android versions," alluding to the fact that most Android phones still run an OS release roughly a year old, and often can't be updated for 3 to 6 months after Google makes an update available.

This spring, Google's Android chief Andy Rubin publicly announced an intent to minimize such issues by saying that even the ostensibly open core of Android 3.0 would not be made available to outside programmers for use in unauthorized ways.

Thus, while Apple's "walled garden" ecosystem around the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad limit what third parties can do to Apple's platform and products, Google's Android is already being used to leverage broad competitive control over a wide variety of hardware makers, forcing them to all make products that report data to Google and to change their designs or refuse to do business with other companies on Google's request, under threat of "stop orders" that can prevent the sale of such unapproved devices at any time.
post #2 of 57
Oops!
post #3 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by christopher126 View Post

Oops!

Yeah.
Microsoft 2.0
post #4 of 57
About time that Google brought law enforcement to the Wild West. This is a good thing.
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post #5 of 57
Wow. This is going to get ugly.

Strange timing of this story too, given that today is the end of the DOJ's oversight of Microsoft for their antitrust problems.
post #6 of 57
Well, I've been using Google for search since the late 90's. I'm stunned by their actions (based on what's in this article and assuming its correct).

So, bye bye Google. I'll use Yahoo from now on.
post #7 of 57
Just like everything else, they will get a slap on the wrist and be allowed to continue to make money doing what they are doing.

Google should be force to forfeit all revenue generated by Android during the time Google was doing illegal things if found guilty.
post #8 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

Just like everything else, they will get a slap on the wrist and be allowed to continue to make money doing what they are doing.

Google should be force to forfeit all revenue generated by Android during the time Google was doing illegal things if found guilty.

Wouldn't that be zero?
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post #9 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Yeah.
Microsoft 2.0

More like Microsoft 1.0.

Microsoft 2.0 is blind and defanged behemoth thrashing around, still making waves but not as frightening as in the past.

Microsoft 1.0, though. Now that was the terror of the oceans.

(I know what you mean. But I just had to say it )
post #10 of 57
A couple billion dollars should solve the problem. Just buy them.

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post #11 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Wouldn't that be zero?

Rubin told Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg that "We're making money on the advertising that's generated through Android."

Mossberg asked: "Are you profitable if it was broken out as a separate business?"

Rubin: "Yes."

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post #12 of 57
Thanks fir that. I thought they were still underwater with it.
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post #13 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by rgberry View Post

Well, I've been using Google for search since the late 90's. I'm stunned by their actions (based on what's in this article and assuming its correct).

So, bye bye Google. I'll use Yahoo from now on.

Boy you sure show them by using Microsoft BING. Too bad BING is terrible
post #14 of 57
Android is so open! Open is better! Gee, it's, it's, like, open!

Idiots.
post #15 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Yeah.
Microsoft 2.0

Exactly! I was thinking that none of this behavior towards competitors and OEMs is out of place for Microsoft, but since Google likes to wrap the saintly bullshit of "open platform" and "don't be evil" around themselves, this feels oddly wrong. Now I know better.

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post #16 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Rubin told Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg that "We're making money on the advertising that's generated through Android."

Mossberg asked: "Are you profitable if it was broken out as a separate business?"

Rubin: "Yes."

But if Android didn't exist Google would be making more money on the platforms that it is replacing.
post #17 of 57
TIMN > Daring Fireball > TIMN > AI

At least you gave credit this time. Unlike the other times where you guys just copy and paste stuff from Patently Apple.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #18 of 57
Quote:
"And that would be awful for Google, because it will cut off our ability to continue collecting data to maintain and improve our location database. If that happens, we can easily wind up in the situation we were in before creating our own location database and that is (a) having no access at all or (b) paying exorbitant costs for access."

And that is on the tail of Congressional testimony about how much good the data collection is for everyone (named Google)! They have a problem with honesty and openness I think.
post #19 of 57
Finally people will start to realize that Google is one of the most evil...
post #20 of 57
Google's closed source components aren't open and are subject to Google approval for certification?

Say it ain't so!

http://source.android.com/ <--------- This is the open bit here.
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post #21 of 57
Good to see they're already convicted by the claims in a lawsuit.
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post #22 of 57
Give me a break. You can install apps from the net on Android phones without rooting them. They're nothing close to iOS' closedness. I'm not saying that's a better policy than Apple's, but it's not a pot-kettle situation like it sounds like in the post.
post #23 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by GalaxyTab View Post

Google's closed source components aren't open and are subject to Google approval for certification?

Say it ain't so!

http://source.android.com/ <--------- This is the open bit here.

While we're talking about Google and evil ...

... they've been secretly data mining your contacts also.

Ryan Tate from Gawker media recently discovered that they added a feature in (enabled by default with no announcement to the user), where they mine your contact information to figure out what social networks you belong to. Then they suggest you suck the contacts and other data from Facebook, Twitter etc. into your Google account so Google can exploit the extra data for their advertisers.

http://gawker.com/5800868/how-google...how-to-stop-it

You have to dig through the settings to even find it let alone turn it off.
post #24 of 57
: This surprises anyone?
: It is a confirmation.
( droid user ): It is a good thing!
: Who's been railing bunkers that it's not, it is NOT a good thing?
: Not for Apple, ( the Droid meant ).
post #25 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by rufwork View Post

Give me a break. You can install apps from the net on Android phones without rooting them. They're nothing close to iOS' closedness. I'm not saying that's a better policy than Apple's, but it's not a pot-kettle situation like it sounds like in the post.

This is nothing to do with installing apps but the hypocrisy that Google is showing by claiming they are 'open' and do 'no evil thing'. Business is business, nothing is free and open. Stop portraying that you're good.
post #26 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by bullhead View Post

Boy you sure show them by using Microsoft BING. Too bad BING is terrible

Try DuckduckGo.com - pretty funky. It's an upstart start up that won't entirely replace google but it's ok for everyday basic search
post #27 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by rufwork View Post

Give me a break. You can install apps from the net on Android phones without rooting them. They're nothing close to iOS' closedness. I'm not saying that's a better policy than Apple's, but it's not a pot-kettle situation like it sounds like in the post.

How it got anything to do with Apple? Apple didn't claim to be open. They also didn't claim to be no evil.

I really hope someone comes up with a search just as good. I'll cease using Google services now if I can.
post #28 of 57
Google's aggressive tactics are resulting in a lot of dust-ups lately, it would seem. Look at the most recent one: in trouble for hosting illegal drug ads -- http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/13/te....html?_r=1&hpw
post #29 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

About time that Google brought law enforcement to the Wild West. This is a good thing.

Ah, I was wondering what your response would be. So now proprietary, closed, walled-garden, curated is GOOD? I thought Google said it was fighting for everyone who wants to be open and free? I'd love to see the Fandroids dig themselves out of this one.

How's the source code looking for Honeycomb? Ice Cream Sandwich? Out yet? Oh, wait... You'll have to get past some Google "tests" to get them, perhaps. Maybe you'll have to go to the Googleplex and do some "testing" ala Portal... Move a few cubes around, solve puzzles with a GoogleGun (copied from a Portal gun just like they copied iOS) and when you pass then you'll get access to some source code.
post #30 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splash-reverse View Post

This is nothing to do with installing apps but the hypocrisy that Google is showing by claiming they are 'open' and do 'no evil thing'. Business is business, nothing is free and open. Stop portraying that you're good.

Couldn't have put it any better.
post #31 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

Ah, I was wondering what your response would be. So now proprietary, closed, walled-garden, curated is GOOD? I thought Google said it was fighting for everyone who wants to be open and free? I'd love to see the Fandroids dig themselves out of this one.

How's the source code looking for Honeycomb? Ice Cream Sandwich? Out yet? Oh, wait... You'll have to get past some Google "tests" to get them, perhaps. Maybe you'll have to go to the Googleplex and do some "testing" ala Portal... Move a few cubes around, solve puzzles with a GoogleGun (copied from a Portal gun just like they copied iOS) and when you pass then you'll get access to some source code.

I've never stated Android was "open", a term interpreted differently by different people for different purposes anyway. Without some control over the developement, you'd have a system like Linux. A great OS with little urgency to push features or a clear leader in organizing it's development. Why would you think it's a bad thing to exert some control?Closing it as completely as Apple does with iOS would obviously be the wrong move since there's several manufacturers involved. but some control is absolutely necessary IMO.

Of course the article is just based on claims made by an aggrieved party and their lawyers. I'm certain no one here considers a claim by someone to be the same as proof (unless it fits their views). Afterall, Casey Anthony's lawyers are said to readying a claim that it was Casey's Dad that's the real killer of her daughter.

I guess it must be true if a lawyer said it.
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post #32 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

While we're talking about Google and evil ...

... they've been secretly data mining your contacts also.

Ryan Tate from Gawker media recently discovered that they added a feature in (enabled by default with no announcement to the user), where they mine your contact information to figure out what social networks you belong to. Then they suggest you suck the contacts and other data from Facebook, Twitter etc. into your Google account so Google can exploit the extra data for their advertisers.

http://gawker.com/5800868/how-google...how-to-stop-it

You have to dig through the settings to even find it let alone turn it off.

And the initial source for this could well be the paid smear campaign by Facebook. http://www.engadget.com/2011/05/12/f...-smear-google/

FWIW, there's a lawsuit filed (thread here somewhere) that claims Apple allows the same contact mining to occur without notifying users. And Apple has no setting to turn that off AFAIK.
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post #33 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post

How it got anything to do with Apple? Apple didn't claim to be open. They also didn't claim to be no evil.

More than that, Apple's "walled garden" is designed to protect customers, the Apple brand, and the overall user experience. That's been clear from the get-go. It may seem elitist to the Fandroids, but the App Store is basically a "gated community". Apple has taken on the responsibility of making sure that everyone who enters and hangs out is safe (in the various ways that "safety" has meaning in this context: free of viruses, malware, salacious content, etc.).
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post #34 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

And the initial source for this could well be the paid smear campaign by Facebook. http://www.engadget.com/2011/05/12/f...-smear-google/

FWIW, there's a lawsuit filed (thread here somewhere) that claims Apple allows the same contact mining to occur without notifying users. And Apple has no setting to turn that off AFAIK.

Total BS.

This has nothing to do with Facebook at all and Apple is not doing anything of the sort. The reason Goggle is doing this is because the information gleaned is part of their core purpose in that it's trade is advertising. Apple has iAd on iOS but it has no need for the information in the first place and it has specific policies in place against doing this sort of thing.

Talk about smear campaign's ... your doing pretty well with yours.
post #35 of 57
I'm not taking all these claims about "Google does that" or "Apple does that" as fact. Unfortunately some here do.

The point I'm attempting to make is that there's lots of things accepted as fact, or unsupported claims used to attack competitors. Because someone in a blog or lawsuit makes a claim doesn't mean you should blindly accept it as proof.

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...formation.html


There was a post just yesterday from a tech blog similar to your link that claims as fact the new iMac's have a proprietary harddrive connector. Was that true too?
http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...olt_imacs.html

Or how about reports that the DoJ is investigating Apple for several violations of US law regarding attempts to influence media company dealings with Google and Amazon by using threats of retaliation thru iTunes promotions. Because it's reported does that make Apple guilty?

http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/conte...6a894f7a55e1bd

http://www.edibleapple.com/doj-inves...itrust-issues/

For some members here the issue of whether something is ethical, legal or fair revolves around who the accused is.

I would like to think you aren't one of those Professor.
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post #36 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

I'm not taking all these claims about "Google does that" or "Apple does that" as fact. Unfortunately some here do.

The point I'm attempting to make is that there's lots of things accepted as fact, or unsupported claims used to attack competitors. Because someone in a blog or lawsuit makes a claim doesn't mean you should blindly accept it as proof.

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...formation.html


There was a post just yesterday from a tech blog similar to your link that claims as fact the new iMac's have a proprietary harddrive connector. Was that true too?
http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...olt_imacs.html

Or how about reports that the DoJ is investigating Apple for several violations of US law regarding attempts to influence media company dealings with Google and Amazon by using threats of retaliation thru iTunes promotions. Because it's reported does that make Apple guilty?

http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/conte...6a894f7a55e1bd

http://www.edibleapple.com/doj-inves...itrust-issues/

For some members here the issue of whether something is ethical, legal or fair revolves around who the accused is.

I would like to think you aren't one of those Professor.

Hey Gatorguy, please do us a favor: go away.

Your consistent, passive-aggressive anti-Apple BS is way past its sell-by date.

At this point, it has become simply tiresome.
post #37 of 57
Perhaps you could point out where I'm posting "anti-Apple". It doesn't happen for a reason. I'm not. Apple's a great company and innovator. The FUD some Apple fans post here doesn't come from them.

I consider myself more pro-truth, or perhaps fair to all. I just call's 'em as I see's 'em.

EDIT: Anantksundaram, be sure to let me know when you've finished going thru my 450+ posts attempting to find "anti-Apple" ones.
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post #38 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

... I consider myself more pro-truth, or perhaps fair to all. I just call's 'em as I see's 'em. ...

... in a kind of of Fox News sort of way.
post #39 of 57


Thanks for lightening the conversation Anonymouse. Yeah, I guess a lot of us probably think we're fair and balanced.

There's days my employees would swear I'm certifiably unbalanced.
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post #40 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Perhaps you could point out where I'm posting "anti-Apple". It doesn't happen for a reason. I'm not. Apple's a great company and innovator. The FUD some Apple fans post here doesn't come from them.

I consider myself more pro-truth, or perhaps fair to all. I just call's 'em as I see's 'em.

EDIT: Anantksundaram, be sure to let me know when you've finished going thru my 450+ posts attempting to find "anti-Apple" ones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

... in a kind of of Fox News sort of way.

I've been around this joint long enough to start to learn something about the regulars and find Gatorguy's takes usually refreshing whether I agree or not.

And I've followed Apple since the Apple I. One of the most if not the most fascinating, compelling business and tech stories - no, make that sagas - ever.

A company that's actually changed the world, made history, and all personalized by an amazing, driven personality who's never stopped pushing his chosen envelopes - through being fired by his own company, being brought back to resurrect it, which he accomplished in a Phoenix-like fashion even while fighting horribly debilitating illnesses - sometimes making many of us gnash our teeth - but nonetheless unleashing revolutions that will keep playing out for decades. Including decisions I would never have made, keeping policies I would've changed long ago, etc., but the last time I checked I was neither the founder nor CEO of the world's second most valuable company.

On the other hand, while I love my own Apple products, I've never gotten the religious fervor of much of the community. More people need to get a life beyond their rooting interest, and the posters who strive for some degree of objectivity are almost all better reads than those whose sole purpose is bash anything non-Apple.

Taking Cupertino to task when there's a reason to or pointing out things other companies are doing right (sometimes better than the Big A) is not "passive-aggressive" - it's part of the search for the best solutions for users. Many but not all of which turn out to be Apple's for me. Hell, I even argue with myself about some of these things.

PS: If you want passive-aggressive, or aggressively passive-aggressive or passively aggressive-aggressive or just plain aggressive, there are a number here and I can also refer you to the (now departed? re-named?) Teckstud.

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