Europe v Android -- EU cites Google in Naked Exclusion

Google hauled over coals by European Union about Android. European Commission's Margrethe Vestager charges la GOOG with antitrust.

Google Android EU antitrust

“If a company is dominant, that’s fine. But if that dominance is abused, then we have an issue.”

Credit: Johannes Jansson (cc:by)

Google is on the EU naughty step yet again. This time, the European Union has charged Google with antitrust violations, hating on secret agreements with Android ODMs and carriers.

The accusations from the EU's executive -- the European Commission (EC) -- boil down to three allegedly-anti-competitive tactics. They sound remarkably similar to the illegal actions of Microsoft 20 years or so ago.

But Google is mounting a vigorous defense. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers hunker down for a long fight.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: Shenzhen… 

What’s the craic? Foo “bar” Yun Chee charges ahead—EU hits Google:

The [EU] charged Google...with using its dominant Android [OS] to squeeze out rivals. [Google] made about $11 billion last year from advertising sales on Android phones...according to estimates.

Complainant FairSearch said Google was hindering the development of...operating systems able to compete with Android...known as Android forks. [Google] has 12 weeks to respond.

But wait, Android is open, right? Mark Scott reports E.U. Charges Dispute Google’s Claims:

Google has long stressed that open for anyone to use. [But] regulators [scrutinized] Google’s relationships with...cellphone makers.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, said...those practices undermined competition and consumer choice. ... “If a company is dominant, that’s fine. But [not] if that dominance is abused.”

The company denies it has broken European competition rules. ... The leading smartphone manufacturers declined to comment.

The EC's complaints make for dense reading. But here's the beef, from its snappily-titled Fact Sheet MEMO/16/1484:

Google obliges manufacturers, who wish to pre-install...Play also pre-install...Google's Chrome browser [and] Google the default search provider. ... Manufacturers [must be] free to choose which apps they pre-install.

If a manufacturer wishes to pre-install...Play Store and Google Search,..Google "Anti-Fragmentation Agreement" that commits it not to sell [any] devices running on Android forks. ... Google has not been able to show this [is] objectively justified.

Google has granted significant financial incentives...on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search. ... The Commission takes issue...with the conditions associated with [these] incentives.

Case for the defense? Google GC Kent Walker defends what he calls Android’s Model of Open Innovation:

Android has emerged as an engine for...innovation. ... It has let developers...reach huge audiences. ... We take [the EC] concerns seriously.

Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary. ... Android is free for manufacturers to use, [but] it’s costly to develop. [We] offset our costs through the revenue [from] Google apps and services.

The Android model [is] good for competition and for consumers. ... We look forward to working with the [EC].

Déjà vu, anyone? Prof. Ben Edelman told ya so—Google's Tactics in Mobile:

These questions are near and dear to me. ... I broke the story of Google's...previously-secret...contracts [in] February 2014.

Competition lawyers [call] conduct unabashedly intended to exclude rivals..."naked exclusion". [It] impedes competition...and streamlines Google's dominance.

Google's argument runs counter to...competition law. Consider...prior EC proceedings. ... Microsoft faced EC penalties for requiring...OEMs include [IE] and Media Player. ... Google should withdraw the...restrictions [and] pay a substantial penalty.

But what's the alternative? Nilay Patel thinks about it:

The EU's idea of "potentially superior versions of Android" is some real magical thinking. ... If you let everyone...fork the OS, you'll screw app developers. ... This feels real dumb.

And Finally…

This Chinese electronics market is wild
[The self-styled “Queen of ****** Robots” visits Shenzhen]

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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