The FairSearch coalition, whose members include Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle, has filed a complaint with the European Commission against Google and Android, saying that the company is using the OS as a Trojan horse to deceive partners and monopolize the mobile marketplace.
Android has become the dominant smartphone operating system when counting units sold, with a market share of 70 percent during the fourth quarter, according to Strategy Analytics. Google is now using that dominance to lock out competition in mobile sector, FairSearch said.
The way Google packages apps such Maps and YouTube on Android-based smartphones “disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today,” while the “predatory distribution of Android at below cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform,” according to the coalition.
“We are asking the Commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market. Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system,” said the FairSearch coalition’s Brussels-based counsel Thomas Vinje, in a statement.
This isn’t the first time FairSearch has complained about what it sees as Google’s anti-competitive practises. In addition to taking aim at Google’s search practises, the coalition last month filed objections with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) over Google’s applications for generic top-level domain (gTLD) strings including “.search,” “.fly” and “.map.”
Google on the other hand isn’t saying much, only stating that “we continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission” when asked about the latest complaint.
What does it all mean?
Calling Google’s strategy with Android a Trojan horse is a bit of a jump, because there aren’t many in the industry that have any illusions as to what the company’s ambitions are with Android, according to Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight. But Google should still be nervous about this latest round of anticompetitive charges, he said.
“We do increasingly see the likelihood of challenges related to the bundling of services on Android and other platforms. Obviously we have seen that on the desktop with Microsoft and Internet Explorer, and the exact same concerns are going be voiced in the mobile space,” Blaber said.
The complexity is that Google will argue that Android is an open-source platform and smartphones can be built with or without its services. Google can also point to the recently announced Facebook Home, which puts Facebook’s services front and center, according to Blaber.
“I can see that there are competitive concerns, but it is a very, very complex market,” Blaber said.
When its comes to the charges related to “predatory distribution of Android at below cost” Blaber is less understanding of FairSearch’s stance. “That is a very difficult argument to make in a mobile industry where open source is quickly becoming the norm. … Really it’s only Microsoft that still has a model based on license fees,” he said.
The European Commission confirmed it received FairSearch’s complaint, but had no further comment on the accusations it directed at Google.
Updated 4/9/2013 at 9 a.m. PDT with analysis by Geoff Blaber and response from the European Commission.