EU lays antitrust charges against Google over locking in Android apps and features

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As anticipated, the European Commission on Wednesday pressed a new set of antitrust charges against Google, saying the company is hindering competition by locking in certain Android apps, or even versions of Android, despite it being an open-source operating system.




The charges trace back to an April 2013 complaint by FairSearch, a coalition of tech companies, the Wall Street Journal said. Specifically, the Commission notes that Google requires Android device makers to preload Google Search and Chrome -- and set Google as the default search option -- if they want to include any other Google services, like Maps or even the Play store. The company is also offering financial incentives to carriers and device makers to preinstall Google Search.

Manufacturers are also often prevented from running alternate operating systems based on Android code, the Commission said. While there are forks of Android -- like OxygenOS on OnePlus phones -- most major smartphone makers, like Samsung and Motorola, will only apply skins and custom apps.

Prior to this week the Commission was already looking into other aspects of Google's business practices, such as whether it abuses its control of search in other fields, and whether it deters websites from placing ads that compete with its own network. Mobile, though, is a particularly sensitive realm for Google, since Android was conceived partly to tap into growing mobile ad revenue.

Depending on the Commission's findings, Google could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual global revenue for each charge, which would cost it billions. Alternately the two parties might come to a settlement, but regarding the Android charges, Google has insisted it will show that the OS "helped foster a remarkable --and, importantly, sustainable -- ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 49
    Good. This is common sense and it actually surprises me to see so many people supporting Google.

    Actually, it doesn't surprise me. Considering the trash that the fanatics post about Android it makes sense they'd try to spin this in Google's favor as well.
    tmayirelandmoreck
  • Reply 2 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,278member
    Google's point response:

    • Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary -- anyone can use Android without Google. Try it—you can download the entire operating system for free, modify it how you want, and build a phone. And major companies like Amazon do just that.  
    • Manufacturers who want to participate in the Android ecosystem commit to test and certify that their devices will support Android apps. Without this system, apps wouldn’t work from one Android device to the next.  Imagine how frustrating it would be if an app you downloaded on one Android phone didn’t also work on your replacement Android phone from the same manufacturer.  
    • Any manufacturer can then choose to load the suite of Google apps to their device and freely add other apps as well.  For example, phones today come loaded with scores of pre-installed apps (from Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google, mobile carriers, and more).
    • Of course while Android is free for manufacturers to use, it’s costly to develop, improve, keep secure, and defend against patent suits.  We provide Android for free, and offset our costs through the revenue we generate on our Google apps and services we distribute via Android.
    • And it’s simple and easy for users to personalize their devices and download apps on their own -- including apps that directly compete with ours.  The popularity of apps like Spotify, WhatsApp, Angry Birds, Instagram, Snapchat and many more show how easy it is for consumers to use new apps they like. Over 50 billion apps have been downloaded on Android.

    http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/androids-model-of-open-innovation.html
    singularitylatifbplord amhranjony0
  • Reply 3 of 49
    I read the google response and they don't answer any of the charges. it read like a politician's statement, saying plenty without saying anything at all.
  • Reply 4 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,278member
    adm1 said:
    I read the google response and they don't answer any of the charges. it read like a politician's statement, saying plenty without saying anything at all.
    What part of their statement doesn't sound sensical? I'm personally not buying into all of it but what to you isn't "saying anything". Seems to me the response applies to the EU claims which is far from not saying anything.

    Also for what it's worth calling FairSearch a "coalition of tech companies" is not terribly descriptive nor accurate IMO. When the complaint was originally filed it was for all intents a Microsoft front organization, not a group looking out for the consumer. Earlier this year and just before the EU commish decided to bring formal charges MS removed themselves from the picture with Nokia and Oracle now leading it. They aren't out to protect the consumer either. 

    FairSearch would not be interested in a FairPicture or a FairOutcome for users. Their interests are business-related and fracturing Android (more than it is) and bringing along collateral damage to users of Android devices fits their goals.
    edited April 2016 lord amhranjony0
  • Reply 5 of 49
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,782member
    It’s Microsoft déjà vu all over again. But the EU is full of crap anyway. Protecting competition and innovation? My ass.
    edited April 2016 latifbp
  • Reply 6 of 49
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,545member
    The anticompetitive aspect is the legal language that disallows an OTA member from shipping a device with an Android Fork; either all Google Services or your on your own.

    Hardly the definition of "Open" for the Open Handset Alliance.
    moreck
  • Reply 7 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,278member
    tmay said:
    The anticompetitive aspect is the legal language that disallows an OTA member from shipping a device with an Android Fork; either all Google Services or your on your own.

    Hardly the definition of "Open" for the Open Handset Alliance.
    Does Google's explanation for why it would be bad for consumers to do so make sense? Afterall the Commish is saying the charges are to protect consumers, which it doesn't seem to be about at all. Looks as tho it's to benefit Oracle, Microsoft and Nokia. Oddly Nokia is playing both sides. They're complaining to the EU about "closed" Android while using "open" Android to develop their own fork of it, NokiaX
    edited April 2016 latifbpmoreckjony0
  • Reply 8 of 49
    Im no fan of how Google generates revenue. But the EU is constantly sticking its neck into realms that it probably shouldn't. in this case Google is right. They develop Android, and should have a very strong say as to what can be done with it. Using Android is completely volunteer so I don't see how this is a legitimate gripe with phone OEMs. if you don't like the rules make your own OS and market it. otherwise, resolve your beef with Google directly. if someone wants to choose a different search engine then they need to follow the steps to make changes or download Apps that allow them to bypass google's search. If they don't like that because it limits some functionality of the OS, too bad. Go use another OS or live with the workaround. Google does not owe anyone an apology for their business model. Google's only real stream of revenue is Ad sales, so no wonder they try and dominate the home screens with THEIR search. I cant blame them for that. Concerning some of the other complaints about how Google treats search results, thats another story, and it sounds like there are very legitimate gripes about that. But in this world you need to pay to play. Isn't my favorite model, but its Google's and they are free to make that decision IMO.
    singularitylatifbp
  • Reply 9 of 49
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,018member
    gatorguy said:
    Google's point response:

    • Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary -- anyone can use Android without Google. Try it—you can download the entire operating system for free, modify it how you want, and build a phone. And major companies like Amazon do just that.  
    • Manufacturers who want to participate in the Android ecosystem commit to test and certify that their devices will support Android apps. Without this system, apps wouldn’t work from one Android device to the next.  Imagine how frustrating it would be if an app you downloaded on one Android phone didn’t also work on your replacement Android phone from the same manufacturer.  
    • Any manufacturer can then choose to load the suite of Google apps to their device and freely add other apps as well.  For example, phones today come loaded with scores of pre-installed apps (from Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google, mobile carriers, and more).
    • Of course while Android is free for manufacturers to use, it’s costly to develop, improve, keep secure, and defend against patent suits.  We provide Android for free, and offset our costs through the revenue we generate on our Google apps and services we distribute via Android.
    • And it’s simple and easy for users to personalize their devices and download apps on their own -- including apps that directly compete with ours.  The popularity of apps like Spotify, WhatsApp, Angry Birds, Instagram, Snapchat and many more show how easy it is for consumers to use new apps they like. Over 50 billion apps have been downloaded on Android.

    http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/androids-model-of-open-innovation.html

    The problem they have is that it is all-in or not. That is the choice. Want the GMS apps? Sign the deal with the devil. Don't want the burden, don't sign. The problems come with someone signing it is for all their products. If they limited it per device they wouldn't get such pushback. Basically if you sign up with Google, you cannot field something based on the open version. That makes it very hard for someone to get off of Google's Android once they signed. Also, how can they say Android is free? Having third parties certify your releases cost money when Google doesn't allow you to do it yourself. I guess them imposing costs that go to a third party doesn't count. 
    tmaymoreck
  • Reply 10 of 49
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,545member
    gatorguy said:
    tmay said:
    The anticompetitive aspect is the legal language that disallows an OTA member from shipping a device with an Android Fork; either all Google Services or your on your own.

    Hardly the definition of "Open" for the Open Handset Alliance.
    Does Google's explanation for why it would be bad for consumers to do so make sense? Afterall the Commish is saying the charges are to protect consumers, which it doesn't seem to be about at all. Looks as tho it's to benefit Oracle, Microsoft and Nokia. Oddly Nokia is playing both sides. They're complaining to the EU about "closed" Android while using "open" Android to develop their own fork of it, NokiaX
    Google has great services; why do they need legal language to protect that?

    There are different markets worldwide, some would be best served by local services, not Google Services, but OTA members would be legally constrained from providing products tailored for those markets.
  • Reply 11 of 49
    gatorguy said:
    Google's point response:

    • Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary -- anyone can use Android without Google. Try it—you can download the entire operating system for free, modify it how you want, and build a phone. And major companies like Amazon do just that.  
    • Manufacturers who want to participate in the Android ecosystem commit to test and certify that their devices will support Android apps. Without this system, apps wouldn’t work from one Android device to the next.  Imagine how frustrating it would be if an app you downloaded on one Android phone didn’t also work on your replacement Android phone from the same manufacturer.  
    • Any manufacturer can then choose to load the suite of Google apps to their device and freely add other apps as well.  For example, phones today come loaded with scores of pre-installed apps (from Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google, mobile carriers, and more).
    • Of course while Android is free for manufacturers to use, it’s costly to develop, improve, keep secure, and defend against patent suits.  We provide Android for free, and offset our costs through the revenue we generate on our Google apps and services we distribute via Android.
    • And it’s simple and easy for users to personalize their devices and download apps on their own -- including apps that directly compete with ours.  The popularity of apps like Spotify, WhatsApp, Angry Birds, Instagram, Snapchat and many more show how easy it is for consumers to use new apps they like. Over 50 billion apps have been downloaded on Android.

    http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/androids-model-of-open-innovation.html

    First, it's NOT voluntary. Taking a license from Microsoft to use Windows is voluntary, since back in the 90's (when MS ran afoul of the EU) you could also sell PCs with Linux or OS/2 (as an example). However, no PC vendor could survive without selling Windows PCs so you were FORCED to use Windows because that's what the market wanted to buy.

    Second point is just spin. Samsung could make a phone specific to a certain market (China) using AOSP to build a forked version of Android and then call it something else entirely. There's no confusion for the customer as nothing on the phone identifies it as Android. Yet Samsung is not allowed to do this because Google forbids any company from making a forked version of Android alongside the Google version of Android (with all their services).

    Third, you have to load ALL of the Apps. You can't pick and choose which ones you want to install.

    Fourth and fifth points are irrelevant.
  • Reply 12 of 49
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    Good. This is common sense and it actually surprises me to see so many people supporting Google.

    Actually, it doesn't surprise me. Considering the trash that the fanatics post about Android it makes sense they'd try to spin this in Google's favor as well.

    Look more closely. It's not about supporting Google, it's about making sure the same crap doesn't come Apple's way. Consider this the EU's practice run. Apple is a much bigger fish.

  • Reply 13 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,278member
    gatorguy said:
    Google's point response:

    • Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary -- anyone can use Android without Google. Try it—you can download the entire operating system for free, modify it how you want, and build a phone. And major companies like Amazon do just that.  
    • Manufacturers who want to participate in the Android ecosystem commit to test and certify that their devices will support Android apps. Without this system, apps wouldn’t work from one Android device to the next.  Imagine how frustrating it would be if an app you downloaded on one Android phone didn’t also work on your replacement Android phone from the same manufacturer.  
    • Any manufacturer can then choose to load the suite of Google apps to their device and freely add other apps as well.  For example, phones today come loaded with scores of pre-installed apps (from Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google, mobile carriers, and more).
    • Of course while Android is free for manufacturers to use, it’s costly to develop, improve, keep secure, and defend against patent suits.  We provide Android for free, and offset our costs through the revenue we generate on our Google apps and services we distribute via Android.
    • And it’s simple and easy for users to personalize their devices and download apps on their own -- including apps that directly compete with ours.  The popularity of apps like Spotify, WhatsApp, Angry Birds, Instagram, Snapchat and many more show how easy it is for consumers to use new apps they like. Over 50 billion apps have been downloaded on Android.

    http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/androids-model-of-open-innovation.html

    First, it's NOT voluntary. Taking a license from Microsoft to use Windows is voluntary, since back in the 90's (when MS ran afoul of the EU) you could also sell PCs with Linux or OS/2 (as an example). However, no PC vendor could survive without selling Windows PCs so you were FORCED to use Windows because that's what the market wanted to buy.

    Second point is just spin. Samsung could make a phone specific to a certain market (China) using AOSP to build a forked version of Android and then call it something else entirely. There's no confusion for the customer as nothing on the phone identifies it as Android. Yet Samsung is not allowed to do this because Google forbids any company from making a forked version of Android alongside the Google version of Android (with all their services).

    Third, you have to load ALL of the Apps. You can't pick and choose which ones you want to install.

    Fourth and fifth points are irrelevant.
    Eric, you're apparently unaware that Samsung DOES sell Android phones in China that don't include Google's services suite. 
    The forking issue is an entirely separate one that I don't believe is among the charges the EU has made. 

    After digesting that point perhaps you could go on to explain why signing up as a supporting member of the OHA and accepting the contract stipulations to do so isn't voluntary. Half a dozen other companies have chosen to use open-source Android to develop their own operating system for smartphones to avoid partnering up with Google (for various reasons) and some doing so pretty darn successfully, more so than those older PC makers who tried to go it alone without Microsoft. 

    Nokia, Xiaomi, Meizu and others were free to develop their own OS with free help from Google and AOSP, and that's what they chose. Companies like LG, Motorola and others made a different voluntary choice did they not? 
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 14 of 49
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,449member
    gatorguy said:
    Google's point response:
    • Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary
    http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/androids-model-of-open-innovation.html
    Sounds like collusion.

    Google indemnifies Samsung against charges of patent infringement. That doesn't come for free.
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 15 of 49
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,449member

    Rayz2016 said:
    Look more closely. It's not about supporting Google, it's about making sure the same crap doesn't come Apple's way. Consider this the EU's practice run. Apple is a much bigger fish.

    Apple hasn't a monopoly--and prefers it that way.
  • Reply 16 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,278member
    cpsro said:
    gatorguy said:
    Google's point response:
    • Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary
    http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/androids-model-of-open-innovation.html
    Sounds like collusion.

    Google indemnifies Samsung against charges of patent infringement. That doesn't come for free.
    ?
  • Reply 17 of 49
    gatorguy said:

    First, it's NOT voluntary. Taking a license from Microsoft to use Windows is voluntary, since back in the 90's (when MS ran afoul of the EU) you could also sell PCs with Linux or OS/2 (as an example). However, no PC vendor could survive without selling Windows PCs so you were FORCED to use Windows because that's what the market wanted to buy.

    Second point is just spin. Samsung could make a phone specific to a certain market (China) using AOSP to build a forked version of Android and then call it something else entirely. There's no confusion for the customer as nothing on the phone identifies it as Android. Yet Samsung is not allowed to do this because Google forbids any company from making a forked version of Android alongside the Google version of Android (with all their services).

    Third, you have to load ALL of the Apps. You can't pick and choose which ones you want to install.

    Fourth and fifth points are irrelevant.
    Eric, you're apparently unaware that Samsung DOES sell Android phones in China that don't include Google's services suite. 
    The forking issue is an entirely separate one that I don't believe is among the charges the EU has made. 

    After digesting that point perhaps you could go on to explain why signing up as a supporting member of the OHA and accepting the contract stipulations to do so isn't voluntary. 

    Being intentionally obtuse again. Do I have to talk like a child to you and spell things out EXPLICITLY?

    Samsung IS NOT ALLOWED to make a forked version of Android, name it something else so customers don't expect to be able to run Android Apps on it, and sell it. AOSP minus Google services IS NOT the same as a forked version of Android.

    All this talk from Google about making things compatible to help the consumer is just a smokescreen to try and take away from the real issues.

    I could voluntarily choose not to eat food. Of course I will die, but it's still voluntary. You seem to be missing the point that mobile vendors do not have a VIABLE choice in terms of an alternative OS to use to build their devices. Me choosing not to eat food is also not a viable option if I want to survive.
    anantksundaram
  • Reply 18 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,278member
    gatorguy said:

    First, it's NOT voluntary. Taking a license from Microsoft to use Windows is voluntary, since back in the 90's (when MS ran afoul of the EU) you could also sell PCs with Linux or OS/2 (as an example). However, no PC vendor could survive without selling Windows PCs so you were FORCED to use Windows because that's what the market wanted to buy.

    Second point is just spin. Samsung could make a phone specific to a certain market (China) using AOSP to build a forked version of Android and then call it something else entirely. There's no confusion for the customer as nothing on the phone identifies it as Android. Yet Samsung is not allowed to do this because Google forbids any company from making a forked version of Android alongside the Google version of Android (with all their services).

    Third, you have to load ALL of the Apps. You can't pick and choose which ones you want to install.

    Fourth and fifth points are irrelevant.
    Eric, you're apparently unaware that Samsung DOES sell Android phones in China that don't include Google's services suite. 
    The forking issue is an entirely separate one that I don't believe is among the charges the EU has made. 

    After digesting that point perhaps you could go on to explain why signing up as a supporting member of the OHA and accepting the contract stipulations to do so isn't voluntary. 

    Being intentionally obtuse again. Do I have to talk like a child to you and spell things out EXPLICITLY?

    Samsung IS NOT ALLOWED to make a forked version of Android, name it something else so customers don't expect to be able to run Android Apps on it, and sell it. AOSP minus Google services IS NOT the same as a forked version of Android.

    All this talk from Google about making things compatible to help the consumer is just a smokescreen to try and take away from the real issues.

    I could voluntarily choose not to eat food. Of course I will die, but it's still voluntary. You seem to be missing the point that mobile vendors do not have a VIABLE choice in terms of an alternative OS to use to build their devices. Me choosing not to eat food is also not a viable option if I want to survive.
    Is the EU complaining about Android forks? Not as far as I know.

    The OHA members producing Android devices are not precluded by Google from selling Windows devices too, nor using any other non-Android mobile OS. If they were I could see why there might be a competition problem in the view of EU authorities.  But I understand why you'd like to introduce a new argument that the EU isn't making tho since your previous one didn't hold water. 
    edited April 2016 singularity
  • Reply 19 of 49

    cpsro said:
    gatorguy said:
    Google's point response:
    • Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary
    http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/androids-model-of-open-innovation.html
    Sounds like collusion.

    Google indemnifies Samsung against charges of patent infringement. That doesn't come for free.

    Thanks for bringing that up. Google has no official indemnification policy (as an example, Microsoft does have one). They have SELECTIVELY indemnified certain vendors (mainly those who were in lawsuits). Gatorguy has in the past tried to take these few selective agreements to imply that Google does in fact indemnify Android vendors, but to this day he has not been able to point us to Google's OFFICIAL policy on this.

    Microsoft has their policy up on their website for all to view (I'll try to find the link again). Google does not. Which makes me think Google only picks and chooses who it will indemnify based on some conditions that are only known to them.

    Perhaps Gatorguy now has a link for us to update where Google stands on indemnification?
  • Reply 20 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,278member

    gatorguy said:

    First, it's NOT voluntary. Taking a license from Microsoft to use Windows is voluntary, since back in the 90's (when MS ran afoul of the EU) you could also sell PCs with Linux or OS/2 (as an example). However, no PC vendor could survive without selling Windows PCs so you were FORCED to use Windows because that's what the market wanted to buy.

    Second point is just spin. Samsung could make a phone specific to a certain market (China) using AOSP to build a forked version of Android and then call it something else entirely. There's no confusion for the customer as nothing on the phone identifies it as Android. Yet Samsung is not allowed to do this because Google forbids any company from making a forked version of Android alongside the Google version of Android (with all their services).

    Third, you have to load ALL of the Apps. You can't pick and choose which ones you want to install.

    Fourth and fifth points are irrelevant.
    Eric, you're apparently unaware that Samsung DOES sell Android phones in China that don't include Google's services suite. 
    The forking issue is an entirely separate one that I don't believe is among the charges the EU has made. 

    After digesting that point perhaps you could go on to explain why signing up as a supporting member of the OHA and accepting the contract stipulations to do so isn't voluntary. 

    All this talk from Google about making things compatible to help the consumer is just a smokescreen to try and take away from the real issues
    The argument about "protecting the consumer" is coming from the EU commish. Yup, it's a smoke-screen
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