Google has come out unscathed from a lawsuit in which consumers accused the company of anti-competitive practices. The basic allegation was that Google requires manufacturers to use a Google version of Android and that the way they place their own apps at the forefront has increased prices and prevented potential rivals from emerging. The main issue is the stipulation that Google's search be default in order to preload Play Services on Android devices.
There is probably some merit in the raw outline of the complaint; requiring Google Search to be default in order to access the rest of the Google goodies has probably held down competitors both in the search and mobile software market. Where the legal argument fell short, though, is in proving consumer harm.
The federal judge ruled that there was insufficient proof that Google's practices had caused higher prices or stifled innovation. Business agreements like this are not automatically illegal so long as they are not monopolistic. That is, is Google wielding so much power that manufacturers have no choice but to accept terms they aren't happy with?
In a related complaint, search provider Yandex said this to Russian regulators:
The openness of Android belongs to the past . . . The main installations on Android have become a closed package of Google Mobile Services technologies, including Google Play and a range of other components. The dependence of smartphone producers and developers on GMS has grown so much that Google can dictate the rules of the game. If producers don’t agree to migrate their devices to Google services, in particular, by making Google their default search engine, they can lose access to components of the Android platform, on which the success of their phones depends.
Recall that Microsoft was once ordered to split into two companies as the result of an antitrust lawsuit before eventually reaching a settlement during their appeal. A central part of that case was the market position of Internet Explorer. In Europe, Microsoft was required to provide a list of alternative browsers with all new Windows installations. We could see a similar outcome with Google, in which they are safe in the USA but could come under fire from the European Union or other jurisdictions.
Of course, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison for a variety of reasons. Either way, today's ruling is still good news for Google. The consumers who filed suit do have a chance to amend their arguments before the case is completely concluded, but their odds do not look good at this point. Meanwhile, don't expect to see your next Android phone to have the Play Store and Bing/Yahoo/DuckDuckGo/Yandex as the primary search option.