Is Android Giving Google An Unfair Advantage?By: Chris Crum - April 9, 2013
FairSearch.org, the organization made up of Google competitors mostly in (but not limited to) the the travel industry, has filed a new complaint with the EU. The angle this time is Android, which the coalition has deemed “a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps in 70 percent of the smartphones shipped today”.
Do you think Android gives Google an unfair advantage in search? Share your thoughts in the comments.
FairSearch.org has filed a complaint with the European Commission laying out Google’s anti-competitive strategy to dominate the mobile marketplace and cement its control over consumer Internet data for online advertising as usage shifts to mobile.
“Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data,” said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel to the FairSearch 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.”
The organization continues, “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.”
FairSearch goes on to call Google’s distribution of Android “predatory”.
The New York Times reports that EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia said he’s receiving proposals from Google this week aimed at clearing up concerns about search practices, as he has been leading an investigation into them. The Times says he’s not commenting on the Android complaint from FairSearch, but noted that the EU has been looking into Android separately.
The timing of this complaint from FairSearch is interesting, given that just days ago, Facebook introduced the Android-specific “Facebook Home,” which lets Android users have a Facebook app that dominates the device, and pushes everything else (including Google apps and even search) into the background. Clearly some Google competitors are not only finding ways to compete on Android, but are even making the basis for their new mobile strategies Android-specific.
Even if Facebook Home doesn’t directly compete in search right now, Mark Zuckerberg has indicated that Graph Search will make its way to the product in time. Remember, that hasn’t even rolled out to mobile yet. It’s also worth noting that vertical search services, particularly on mobile, have already shown they can chip away at Google searches. Facebook, for that matter, recently renamed the “Nearby” feature in its mobile app to “Local Search”.
Amazon, which is arguably Google’s biggest competitor outside of Microsoft, also uses Android to its own benefit. It is the basis for the operating system upon which its Kindle Fire devices run. Amazon has taken advantage of Google’s “open” Android platform to even build its own app store, independent of Google Play. It is this “open” nature of Android, which Zuckerberg specifically praised during a press event introducing Facebook Home.
So, one way to look at Android’s effect on competition is that it directly enables competitors to take on Google with their own offerings.
FairSearch consists of 17 companies whose members including Microsoft, Oracle, Expedia, Nokia, and TripAdvisor. Microsoft, by the way, isn’t very happy about Facebook Home either. Considering Bing’s partnership with Facebook, perhaps that will change once Graph Search makes its way to it.
Meanwhile, Microsoft just kicked off a new “Scroogled” campaign against Google. In other iterations, Microsoft has attacked Google Shopping in Gmail. This time it’s none other than Android, but not for the same reasons highlighted in its EU complaint. The Scroogled campaign aims to convince consumers that there are privacy concerns when using Android, and specifically the Google Play store.
“When you buy an Android app from the Google app store, they give the app maker your full name, email address and the neighborhood where you live. This occurs without clear warning every single time you buy an app,” the campaign goes. “If you can’t trust Google’s app store, how can you trust them for anything?”
Is Google as evil as Microsoft makes it out to be? Is Android specifically? Let us know what you think.