FairSearch Europe—a coalition of Google competitors or legal adversaries including, among others, Microsoft, Nokia, and Oracle—has filed a complaint with the European Union alleging that Google is abusing its dominant OS position in the mobile market to push its own set of apps.

The group claims that Android is used "as a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps in 70 percent of the smartphones shipped today," pointing out that manufacturers have to agree to a certain set of rules requiring inclusion or placement of certain apps. If they want to use Google apps, of course. Manufacturers are free to use Android for whatever purpose they choose without them, if they think that will be a greater benefit. Though, admittedly, it rarely is.

The complaint alleges that Android is a 'Trojan Horse' that is attempting to "monopolize the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data." However, it's unclear just how Android is distinct from other OSes on this front, aside from the option to use Android without Google. Indeed, one part of the group's blog post on the matter suggests that Google is distributing Android at "below-cost," implying that if manufacturers were charged a fee (as Microsoft does), then suddenly Windows Phone would be on level ground. The result of the free OS, however, "makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform." Indeed, Microsoft has not seen much monetary success with Windows Phone, though it's long been suspected that the company makes more from Android than it does its own platform.

The complaint comes as the EU is already trying to close one antitrust investigation against Google regarding search results. As the complaints out of Fair Search Europe grow in scope, the organization morphs even more from a simple promoter of equal search engine rights to an obviously anti-Google group. Though, given the big money backers, this isn't a surprise. Regardless of your stance on just how "evil" Google is, this should be kept in mind when complaints are brought up.

Still, the broader point that Google controls Android inadvertently through its services is not an unfair one. In fact, it's the primary reason there's little reason for Mountain View to be concerned over things like Facebook Home. This is a double-edged sword, though. Microsoft will never adopt Android as its main OS, and it loses the ability to sell its own platform if it creates Android versions of its best apps.

But then, what's the solution? You can have an integrated platform of an operating system with a complete set of apps, but only if you're not successful on a global scale with it? That...kinda sucks.

Source: Fair Search via NYTimes, Guardian

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • http://twitter.com/Defenestratus Defenestratus

    MSFT filing anti-trust complaints against anyone just pegs out the hypocrisy-meter.

  • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

    Microsoft et all, given the chance would get themselves in the exact same position.

    They're only complaining because it's not them.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      "Given the chance" nothing. Microsoft *has* the chance with Windows 8. And it launched and/or gave prominent placement to Xbox Music, SkyDrive, Xbox Games, Calendar, Sports, News, People, Mail, Maps, Weather, Travel...

      • http://www.facebook.com/patricklynnburns Patrick Burns

        Windows 8?? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Yea they have "a chance" It's called SLIM TO NONE! Day late and a dollar short. And FWIW, I'm typing this on a Windows 8 computer.

        • Major_Pita

          The expression is "They have two chances: slim and none" LOL

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

          I....really just have no idea what it is you're saying.

    • ProductFRED

      How about Microsoft stops bundling Office and Bing and all their apps with Windows Phone, since that "monopolizes the Windows Phone market by preloading Microsoft applications?"

      That's how much this makes sense.

      • http://www.visiv.ca hunter2

        it made just as much sense when Microsoft was forced to include the browser ballot box while Apple has no problem bundling Safari and a slew of other first party apps. That didn't change the fact the Microsoft was slapped with massive fines and strong restrictions.

        • ProductFRED

          The term monopoly applies to a majority. Windows PC are 90-something% of the world's computers. Apple can get away with it because they have less than 10% overall marketshare.

          • http://www.visiv.ca hunter2

            A majority (as in anything above 50%)?

          • Thomas’

            Apple had a monopoly on tablets for quite a time - and has still the biggest share. So why are they allowed to not only bundle their browser, but also to FORBID other browsers?

  • cc_star

    Don't forget that in addition to 70%+ Android marketshare, Google's deal with Apple on iOS means that Google Search is the default option on ~95% of mobile devices.

    That's going to attract regulatory attention, just like Microsoft's bundling of IE & WM... and that's without getting into the rest of Google's services on that 70% (much higher in some EU countries)

    Also I wonder if FairSearch has brought this up now because they don't think the current case against Google is going their way, so they're firing more ammo at them?

    • faceless128

      except you can get Android without Google Search as the default.

      • cc_star

        Of course you can, but this isn't about that.

        It's about Android with google has 70%+ (and growing) marketshare and when coupled with Apple deal means google Search is default option

        The fact OEMs /may/ be able to include some services but not others & that some geeks can download a ROM is irrelevant to the market situation as it actually exists where Google has 95% of default mobile search market, 70%+ of handsets with all their other services bundled etc & etc

  • Greg Sanders

    I didn't like it when the regulators did it to Microsoft, but turn about is fair play.

    Thank your big govt interference for this mess.

    • cphilano

      The difference is...Microsoft had a monopoly on the OS on all PCs specifically Intel architecture. Google doesn't have a monopoly on a mobile architecture or even its own OS ANDROID. Windows never gave you a choice. Microsoft was signing deals that specifically kept competition off PCs. It came with IE and said it was integrated. Even with assigning another default browser IE pops up.

      As witnessed with Apple's try at moving Google apps out of sight on the iPhone, right now people are just choosing those apps not being forced into using.

      • cc_star

        It's not about what's possible

        It's about the situation as it exists... behavior patterns of both consumers & OEMs are favouring an incumbent to the detriment of competition.

        I don't agree with the action, but at the same time... bundling your stuff with 70%+ (& growing) of mobile devices and having a deal in place with a rival meaning your search service is default option on 95% of mobile devices could mean competition is being hindered by default behaviors, which Google's actions are leading..

        • marcusmaximus04

          "behavior patterns of both consumers & OEMs are favouring an incumbent to the detriment of competition."

          This seems to just be arguing against success... If consumers choose Android and google apps, then that's their right. Why should any action be done by the government to try to make consumers use something they don't want rather than something they do? Fair competition means going in with products and letting consumers choose what they want to buy, not requiring that an equal(or even roughly equal) number of consumers choose each competing product.

        • http://profiles.google.com/k3gman Keg Man

          At least at this point, the default behavior is easily changed. In fact, they dont even leave the google service default, the second you install a new app that performs that action, Android asks you which one you want to use. So its not even making it difficult on you

  • HellG

    Oh really what does this remind me with? oh yeah the EU ruling that it's illegal for M$ to bundle IE with Windows,I'm afraid that the ruling in this case might go the same way :/
    and for Eric, the ruling would have nothing to do with the likes of WP, same as the ruling of IE which didn't force Apple to drop safari from Mac's, it's because Android/Microsoft have leading share in their respective categories where WP/Mac are the underdogs of the market, Stupid EU judges >_<

    • didibus

      I'm not sure.There are a couple differences here. First of all, the market leadership of android is way below what that of Windows was. IE was not a service, but a software. OEMs and other vendors had no way around IE, in Google's case, they can bundle their own version of Android, so the vendor can choose alternatives. Google let's you uninstall or completely replace the defaults. The only case I can see, is the one that Android, being a free OS of high quality, makes it harder for other companies to profit on the creation of OSs, and undermines competition. We will see what happens. I know google won in the case of search, so let's see.

  • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

    This is wholly invalid. Google only requires you include those apps and APIs for compatibility and access to the Android market. Otherwise you can always go it alone. Plenty of phones shipped with different browsers, different default search (Remember when a phone came with Bing), different email clients, etc.

    And, the fact that Android isn't "sold below cost" but essentially given away also creates a big issue. Its the OHA, of which multiple companies are partners in. Google is, in effect, just he most prominent supporter of a platform developed collectively. Yeah, they do 99% of the code but its not like they "own" android. Google controls the platform through their services because, well, their services are better. Nothing on Android restricts you. I could, if i wanted to, make virtually any application the default handler for anything. I could override Google Maps, Search, Voice, whatever. I don't because, frankly, nobody has come out with anything better.

    Also, its tough to have a monopoly when Apple still accounts for a 1/3rd of the market. Now there is a company that controls its platform.

    • New_Guy

      Well said.

    • Microsoftenator

      People made similar comments about IE during the MS antitrust suit. Not that that makes it any less valid.

      The problem in this case is that consumers generally don't associate their Android phones with Google. They think of them as Samsung, HTC, Motorola, etc.

      Part of this is because of manufacturer skins, but more of it is marketing: The phones aren't primarily marketed on running Android, it's a dot point on the feature list at best.

      • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

        The big difference is MS owned both and made IE the de facto on Windows, it wasn't like Dell was going to create a Windows with IE stripped and running Netscape.

        That is what happens with Android, look at the Kindle. The only reason you have to run Google apps is to work with Google services but here is nothing about android itself that requires those apps. The only reason phones ship with GApps is, well, people want them. MS could make an android phone with no trace of Google apps on it if they wanted.

    • MicroNix

      Yeah, I remember when some Android phones were coming with Bing. It was the first thing removed!

  • Daniel Wiggins

    You can get android without Google, you can not get windows without ie...

    • ProductFRED

      In the EU you can, with "N" versions of Windows. When you first boot up, it asks you which browser you want to install. This was the result of a similar anti-trust case.

      • Stipe Hodak

        In all fairness, IE is integrated with the Windows OS so technically it's not absent from the OS, just the icons for starting it aren't there unless you chose to have them at that browser choice. If you open Windows Explorer (file manager in Windows) and type in an internet URL, a page will be opened using IE engine...

        • ProductFRED

          Yeah. From a technical standpoint, it's necessary. You can remove it, but you might run into some issues.

        • Microsoftenator

          Actually, that last part is false. I just tried it, and it opened the page in my default browser (Chrome). The MSHTML engine is a part of Windows, yes, but it's far from a web browser

    • cc_star

      You can get Android without Google?

      That's not the issue though, it's that Android with Google is over 70% share (& climbing) and when added to their iOS deal means google is default option on 95% of mobile devices.

      • ProductFRED

        Surprising? No. Most people use Google to search on their computers. Why? Because it's clean and gets you where you want, quickly. It's not Google's fault that they're so popular. If Microsoft wants change, the only thing they can do is make a better product. Notice how Google doesn't waste time and money to slander the competition in TV ads. They have people in mind. Microsoft on the other hand is a little cry baby because nobody wants to use Bing.

        • QwietStorm

          It's entirely Google's fault that their so popular.

          • Microsoftenator

            It's entirely Google's fault they make a solid, attractive product that is superior to the competition in many ways?

          • QwietStorm

            Why yes, of course it is.

  • WestIndiesKING

    what a joke. OEM's can do what they want with the OS, Amazon is the prefect example of this. If you want to test the waters go right ahead just know that you cant have our branding on anything. Facebook home is another example of this, Facebook is taking Android and putting a skin over it with their launcher. The choices are there its just a matter of how well they are implemented. Verizon loads a crap load of their junk on Android phones so does Sammy. Didnt MS pay a carrier to default bing as the default search engine on their phones?

    Lastly they are giving it away for free, what is the benefit of giving it away for free if you cant say hey we will give you this for free and maintain give you free updates to the OS but we are going to load our software on it. Its a win win for OEM's, MS is just made they didnt think of it first. And Nokia is pretty much MS's bitch after they raised them from the grave. Hopefully this gets thrown out and all of the parties get fined for wasting the courts time.

    • Andy_in_Indy

      "Giving it away for free" is viewed as possibly unfairly undercutting the competition in the EU because you are releasing a product below your cost to produce it. The "Freemium" model faced a lot of flak in the EU for this. The fact that there are other free open source alternatives prevents this from being an Anti Trust (monopoly) issue.

      • http://www.facebook.com/patricklynnburns Patrick Burns

        Oh so now Google can't give away Android because it's "unfair" so that means the government is going to start setting minimum prices on what companies can sell their products for? Brilliant! More government oversight and regulation of free enterprise is EXACTLY what we need! They should also legislate how many pieces of toilet paper to use when we wipe our ass!

        • BetterWithRoot

          "I see you aren't using enough toilet paper. That is unfair for people who use more and therefore have to buy more. You need to be using at least 3 sheets each time. It's only fair."

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

            I read this in Clippy's voice.

      • http://profiles.google.com/k3gman Keg Man

        thats crazy. The point of anti-monopoly legislation is to prevent the monopoly from over charging once they are a monopoly. Its free ffs. I mean, you could be right because I dont know, but I dont see how that makes sense. Maybe assuming they take 99% of the market as free then changes from free to paid, then I can see how that would be an issue.

      • MicroNix

        Invalid. Linux is free and undercuts Microsoft Windows.

  • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

    LOL, I love "fair searchs" site. They talk about how they have this mission to promote innovation, free the web, hug baby kittens, etc. Go to the about, its basically 5 travel search sites, a handful of advertisement companies, Microsoft, Oracle and Nokia.

    Its the F'in "First Wives Club."

  • ProductFRED

    Are they smoking crack? How about Microsoft stops bundling Office and Bing and all their apps with Windows Phone, since that "monopolizes the Windows Phone market by preloading Microsoft applications?"

    • cc_star

      WP has marketshare that's barely a rounding error of Androids. Regulators won't be interested in that.

  • Owen Finn

    I think one of the main issues with the MS anti-trust argument here is that Google's services are almost entirely without fee.

    Also - doesn't Apple do the exact same thing?

  • kool_dude

    Someone on the verge article pointed this out - the only condition you need to meet to gain access to the Play Store is compatibilty with the app ecosystem; you don't need the other Google apps.

    The OHA page even says " As the entire platform is open, companies can remove functionality if they choose. For example, if you want to include Hotmail instead of Gmail, it will not be an issue"

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      This is true. Although, I'm unclear on just how selective OEMs can be. I do recall that the Verizon variant of the Galaxy S II had Bing and related services on it. It was also universally panned. It would be interesting to know if Samsung could, say, replace the Maps app with TomTom, or whatever, but keep Gmail, Talk, etc.

      • ProductFRED

        The Fascinate (S1) is what you're referring to. From a licensing standpoint they could (you license the entire suite, but cherry-pick which apps to actually include), but from a compatibility standpoint, it may cause issues with apps that rely on the Maps API (Google added the ability for apps to embed maps from the Maps app within themselves). However you can just download it from the Play Store. I believe the HTC Evo (original) shipped with Telenav software, but also included Maps. And the Optimus L9 on T-Mobile is the same story.

  • Andy_in_Indy

    This is probably just going to fade away because most of the complaints do not stand to scutiny:

    1) There are other "open source" Phone Operating Systems that are available to manufacturers (i.e. Mozilla's, Ubuntu's, and the shattered remain's of Nokia's) for the same cost of development time and patent licensing.

    2) Operators (Carriers to the US folks) have been free to use and develop their own search, mail, and app store infrastructures. Verizon has done all of that, and Amazon has taken it even further.

    3) It is not against the anti-trust laws to require that your apps be compatible with the system on which they are installed. In fact, copyright laws are in place to protect a writer, developer or artist from unwanted use.

    4) Operators (again, carriers for the North American crowd) must approve the software on their branded items, so they have the say if they want to use the "name brand" apps, or the generic ones from the manufacturer.

    • cc_star

      It's not about what else is available.

      It's about situation as it exists and Google have dominance in a lot of areas & that bundling of apps & services assists that, to the point that other companies say it hinders competition.

  • Haithem Obeidi

    They are crying because Google is destroying them all in mobile and since they suck at innovation they want to stop Google from continuing its domination through silly court trials.

  • Sean

    The mere existence of Amazon's Kindle tablets invalidate the little credibility this complaint had. It's just another cynical PR attack from the "Legion of Doom" (fairsearch) to Google's Superman.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patricklynnburns Patrick Burns

    Microsoft and Apple are the enemies of innovation. Their philosophy is if you can't control 100% of the market, then just buy up as many patents as you can and LITIGATE your competition to death with bogus infringement suits.

  • Sidharth

    This is actually very funny. They are now acting like bunch of cracks.

  • Christopher Robert

    I don't see how this is any different than an iPhone coming with iTunes pre-installed or a windows phone coming with IE pre-installed. Google Apps are just the pre-installed base software on Android Phones. This lawsuit just seems like a way to tie up a bunch of Google's money and time to try and allow the other OSes to catch up.

  • syntaxxerror

    So are they arguing that open source is antitcompetitive?

  • Aaron Berlin


  • http://flavors.me/sabret00the sabret00the

    This could be the move that forces to Apple to allow third party browsers et all.

  • Simon Belmont

    So, Microsoft shipping Internet Explorer, among tons of other self-branded software, with Windows isn't the same thing? Um, yeah, sure.

    Sounds to me like some companies are mad at Android's dominance. Pshaw.

  • QwietStorm

    As soon as always-on Kinect comes true, I'm filing complaint.

    • http://profiles.google.com/k3gman Keg Man

      I'll be selling a magnetic flap for over the camera

      • QwietStorm

        I'm not buying it anyway. But good luck on your business venture.

  • Mike Snyder

    The difference? Most people actually WANT the Google Apps that come on their Android phones... Why? Because they work and work WELL. Microsoft simply can't make a piece of quality software.

  • Sqube

    When you can't compete, you litigate. Every big entrenched player in every market seems to do this sooner or later. From everything to mobile to taxis to the big media companies... once the big boys get challenged, they run to your local legislator and make him kneecap the scary guy gobbling up all the business.

    It was absurd when it happened to Microsoft, and for Microsoft to now be signing on and doing the exact same thing to another company is so hypocritical that I might have to take a nap and recalibrate my brain.

  • Dan

    You want Android without all of Google's stuff? It's called AOSP. Download it, use it, and STFU. Google has been working hard to pull all of its apps out of the core OS for a long time now because they can't control the updates of anything that's baked into the OS.

    • http://profiles.google.com/k3gman Keg Man

      not to mention an AOSP phone leaves you feeling like its dumb and useless.

  • jaduncan

    Fairsearch's press release makes the following statement:

    "Google achieved its dominance in the smartphone operating system market by giving Android to device-makers for ‘free.’ But in reality, Android phone makers who want to include must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play are required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone, the complaint says. This disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today."

    The OHA however promise that an OHA OEM can remove functionality if they wish, stating:

    "Because the Apache license does not have a copyleft clause, industry players can add proprietary functionality to their products based on Android without needing to contribute anything back to the platform. As the entire platform is open, companies can remove functionality if they choose. Applications are not set in stone, and differentiation is always possible. For example, if you want to include Hotmail instead of Gmail, it will not be an issue."

    Their statement is in direct contradiction to FS, so one party must be wrong. I'm going to guess the OHA aren't actually making false statements to OEMs here, especially given that FS have seen fit to release a press release but not the details of their claim. It looks awfully like noise designed to pressure Almunia after his proposed settlement all but disregarded their first proposed remedies.

  • Asphyx

    They are just upset because Google has found a way to monetize an OS without charging you to use it.
    They are monetizing the Information that OS provides not the OS itself.
    MS' way of doing things is over. Even Apple learned from the get go that the OS was not the commodity to monetize it was the control of the information that goes into and out of the device that makes the money these days.
    And Facebook finally figured that out as well and gave up on the App method and moved to the launcher which everyone has to use to do anything regardless of what they do on facebook or not.
    TV has long made it's money on giving us free to sell our attention to someone else who wanted to advertise and reach us.
    Now the Mobile Market has figured out how to do that too...
    We get free and the more WE there is the more companies will pay to get at us!

  • Julio M

    That's a bit too late for an April's fools

  • Matt Sokolinski

    So... Microsoft - loosing market share to google
    Nokia - same as Microsoft
    Oracle - well they have just recently lost their case against Google...
    Does this look like a group complaint because "we aren't on the top"

  • mgamerz

    Don't worry, MS will be fine.
    Everyone loves their hotmail app, right?

  • Floss

    But the exact service they are claiming is anti competitive requires a fee from the manufacturer's, effectively putting them on even ground by their own standards...

  • OmarioAmriky

    Sounds like someone's jealous.