Google's strict policies for 'open' Android OS revealed in newly public documents

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2014
New documents published to the Web on Wednesday reveal Google imposes decidedly strict tit-for-tat terms on device makers looking to use the "open" Android platform.

MADA


In a report on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal aired out Google's past and present dealings with Android device makers, noting OEMs must agree to a very narrow set of terms in order to fully comply with the "open" operating system's licensing.

The publication based its findings on documents from a 2012 Oracle v. Google patent and copyright trial, which were first published by Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman in an in-depth treatise on Wednesday. Edelman points to a previously sealed document regarding Google's Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) provisions as applied to Samsung and HTC.

According to the document, Google requires manufacturers using Android agree to preinstall specific Google Apps, set Google Search as the default search provider for all Web access points and preload Google's Network Location Provider service. In addition, certain apps like the Play Store must be positioned "at least on the panel immediately adjacent to the Default Home Screen." Other stipulations are detailed in the embedded MADA documents below.

Although the documents refer to years-old policies that technically ended in December of 2012, the WSJ contends Google still uses similar agreements. Current restrictions and requirements are not known, however.

"These MADA restrictions suppress competition," Edelman writes. "Thanks to the MADA, alternative vendors of search, maps, location, email, and other apps cannot outcompete Google on the merits; even if a competitor offers an app that's better than Google's offering, the carrier is obliged to install Google's app also, and Google can readily amend the MADA to require making its app the default in the corresponding category (for those apps that don't already have this additional protection)."

Google has touted Android as an "open" platform, from which developers and manufacturers alike can thrive. The company's top executives, like Chairman Eric Schmidt, claim Google does not limit access to Android.

Edelman quotes Schmidt as saying, "Google does not condition access to or use of Android on pre-installation of any Google applications or on making Google the default search engine." Without parsing words, the exec's statement is mostly true. When read in the context of Samsung and HTC's MADA agreements, however, Schmidt leaves open the option that another Google property could impose these same limitations. Apps and search are just two examples.

Galaxy S4


Complicating matters is Android's positioning within the Google hierarchy. As it stands, the most dominant smartphone platform on earth is a funnel for Google's bread and butter search business, driving traffic to advertisers and adding to the firm's ever-growing user data cache. The agreement comes perilously close to engendering a climate of non-competition.

While not surprising, Google also built in a clause that had device makers reporting the number of devices distributed with a given preloaded application.

The WSJ reports that EU antitrust watchdog, the European Commission, has been looking into Google's Android distribution practices since last year. With a recent settlement over Google's search implementations, the agency's vice president and commissioner Joaqu?n Almunia last week said focus will now shift more heavily to Android.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 206
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    But it's open?!?!
    We can do what we want!!!
    Is Google the new Apple?
  • Reply 2 of 206
    Seems like Microsoft lost a lawsuit or two over a very similar policy when it required PC vendors to pre-installed IE in a favorable position on the Windows platform.

    Anybody got popcorn?
  • Reply 3 of 206
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,399member
    But...but...but... does that mean... Google is being.... "the man"??!!!
  • Reply 4 of 206
    gwydiongwydion Posts: 1,067member
    Those are not policies to device manufacturers for using Android, those are policies for licensing Google Services.
  • Reply 5 of 206
    gwydion wrote: »
    Those are not policies to device manufacturers for using Android, those are policies for licensing Google Services.

    That's not what this says: "manufacturers using Android agree to preinstall specific Google Apps, set Google Search as the default search provider for all Web access points and preload Google's Network Location Provider service.…"

    Note the first 3 words of the quote: "manufacturers using Android...." Nowhere does it say "licensing Google apps." That's presumptive based on the quid pro quo of installing those apps in favored position in exchange for permission to use Android on their devices.

    Got it now?
  • Reply 6 of 206
    gwydiongwydion Posts: 1,067member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macaholic_1948 View Post





    That's not what this says: "manufacturers using Android agree to preinstall specific Google Apps, set Google Search as the default search provider for all Web access points and preload Google's Network Location Provider service.…"



    Note the first 3 words of the quote: "manufacturers using Android...." Nowhere does it say "licensing Google apps." That's presumptive based on the quid pro quo of installing those apps in favored position in exchange for permission to use Android on their devices.



    Got it now?

     

    Tell that to Amazon, B&N or Chinese Android device manufacturers. Ups, they don't use none of those services.

     

    The article can say what it wants, what the DOCUMENTS are talking about is Google Services licensing. And perhaps is better quote the WSJ article

     

     

    Quote:


    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


     

     

    Got it?

  • Reply 7 of 206

    Google : I will make your companies billions with my free product, all I ask is you use some of my other well known apps

    OEM's : YEAH NO PROBLEM

  • Reply 8 of 206
    Google : I will make your companies billions with my free product, all I ask is you use some of my other well known apps

    OEM's : YEAH NO PROBLEM

    Oops... that didn't work.

    Isn't Samsung the only Android manufacturer that makes any money?

    I guess Android isn't a cure-all.
  • Reply 9 of 206
    gwydion wrote: »
    Tell that to Amazon, B&N or Chinese Android device manufacturers. Ups, they don't use none of those services.

    The article can say what it wants, what the DOCUMENTS are talking about is Google Services licensing. And perhaps is better quote the WSJ article




    Got it?
    Not really. We are both right. Or both wrong. Or both right and wrong. According to the WSJ article, it reads more like you can use an uncustomized version if Android which includes Google Search and YouTube, you have to do these other things.

    So it's really a combination of both apparently.
  • Reply 10 of 206

    The documents are basically saying that you're free to use the open bits of Android, which is what Amazon and others have done. To use Android branding, you need to agree to terms that require preloading of certain apps. These apps come with their own stipulations, which is where the MADA comes in. Also, you probably don't want to build your own app store like Google Play. Take one app, you agree to all terms.

  • Reply 11 of 206
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macaholic_1948 View Post





    Not really. We are both right. Or both wrong. Or both right and wrong. According to the WSJ article, it reads more like you can use an uncustomized version if Android which includes Google Search and YouTube, you have to do these other things.



    So it's really a combination of both apparently.

     

    No you're flat out wrong.  Android can be used however by whomever.  Android with Google Play Services (what is sold as Android on most handsets) has certain requirements as you can see from the article.

  • Reply 12 of 206

    lol fair enough

     

    Google: I can potentially make you billions, but definitely make you millions.

     

    OEM's: Can you show us how to run a business too and turn millions into billions?

     

    Google: Sorry we're running the world maybe later

  • Reply 13 of 206
    gwydiongwydion Posts: 1,067member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mikeycampbell81 View Post

     

    The documents are basically saying that if you're free to use the open bits of Android, which is what Amazon and others have done. To use Android branding, you need to agree to terms that require preloading of certain apps. These apps come with their own stipulations, which is where the MADA comes in. Also, you probably don't want to build your own app store like Google Play. Take one app, you agree to all terms.


     

    Android branding doesn't need to license apps.

  • Reply 14 of 206

    lol fair enough

     

    Google: I can potentially make you billions, but definitely make you millions.

     

    OEM's: Can you show us how to run a business too and turn millions into billions?

     

    Google: Sorry we're running the world maybe later

  • Reply 15 of 206
    gwydiongwydion Posts: 1,067member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by macaholic_1948 View Post





    Not really. We are both right. Or both wrong. Or both right and wrong. According to the WSJ article, it reads more like you can use an uncustomized version if Android which includes Google Search and YouTube, you have to do these other things.



    So it's really a combination of both apparently.

    Wrong, AOSP doesn't include any of the Google applications.

  • Reply 16 of 206
    http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/02/neither-microsoft-nokia-nor-anyone-else-should-fork-android-its-unforkable/

    Read this article to understand what is the term "free Android" really means. It's free but it's "useless free".
  • Reply 17 of 206
    gwydion wrote: »
    Wrong, AOSP doesn't include any of the Google applications.
    Then I guess WSJ is wrong too.
  • Reply 18 of 206
    alfiejralfiejr Posts: 1,524member

    all this word parsing is beside the real point. when you put these Google license terms together with how Google is evolving the overall Android OS itself (see the very important article http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/02/neither-microsoft-nokia-nor-anyone-else-should-fork-android-its-unforkable/ for the gory details), it is absolutely clear Google Android has become a master/slave relationship - with the OEM's as the slaves. even Samsung.

     

    this certainly does remind of the MS Windows hegemony of yore, which likewise reduced OEM's to MS vassals trapped in a commodity product race to the bottom that many have now lost.

     

    the ultimate irony is the one place this isn't happening is China and its Asian sphere, because the last truly good thing Google did - refusing to enable China's state censorship of the internet - resulted in their banishment from that huge market. i bet they never make that "mistake" again.

  • Reply 19 of 206
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gwydion View Post

     

     

    Android branding doesn't need to license apps.


     

    Poor choice of words, branding = trademark. 

  • Reply 20 of 206
    Seems like Microsoft lost a lawsuit or two over a very similar policy when it required PC vendors to pre-installed IE in a favorable position on the Windows platform.

    That's different. IE came from a dumb company, Android comes from a stupid company¡
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