The FairSearch Coalition held en event on Thursday, called "Searching For Innovation And Competition In The Online Marketplace". If you're unfamiliar with FairSearch, it's a group composed of Google competitors in the travel search space, and includes main Google rival Microsoft. Its primary objective is to paint Google in an anticompetitive light. More background on the group here.
During the event, there was a panel called “Tech Executives: Exploring Barriers to Innovation in Mobile and Online Services". Here's video from the session:
Susan Athey, Microsoft Chief Economist and consultant for the company, said, “Microsoft tried to make deals to become the default search engine on mobile devices. On Android, that was rendered impossible. They were told, Android makers, and carriers, were told, that you cannot use another default besides Google."
Longtime search industry voice Danny Sullivan has put together quite a rant, titled "Google Doesn’t Require Google Search On Android, Despite What FairSearch & Microsoft Want You To Believe," debunking such claims that Android device must use Google as the default search engine.
"That’s not true. Not only is it not true, it’s impossible. It’s impossible because Android code is released to anyone to do anything that they want with. But if just being impossible isn’t enough proof, how about proof of Android devices that have dropped Google as the default search engine?"
He then goes on to name specific Android devices that have used other search engines, including Yahoo, and Microsoft's own Bing as the default search engine (Motorola Backflip and Samsung Galaxy S with Verizon respectively).
"There was the Samsung Galaxy S with Verizon, also known as the Galaxy Fascinate," writes Sullivan. "That phone, which I personally tested for several weeks in 2011, used Bing as the default search. You know, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, the one Microsoft supposedly couldn’t cut deals with device makers or carriers to be the default on Android devices."
Last week, it was revealed that Amazon's new Kindle Fire devices (which utilize Android and Amazon's own app store, rather than Google Play), are using Bing as the default search engine, as Sullivan also notes.
Google D.C. guy Adam Kovacevich was in attendance at the event, and said, "I just want to clarify something that you said, that we require Android manufacturers to install Google as the default search. That is just not true."
He tweeted a similar response to the rest of the world:
Susan Athey's claim that Android manufacturers have to use Google as search default is not true. http://t.co/eqQUA3Hg
He later retweeted Sullivan's article.
It probably goes without saying, but he also tells us there was a lot of stuff said at FairSearch's event that Google would disagree with.
Sullivan continues, pointing out a variety of ways Microsoft and FairSearch appear to have manipulated the storyline in their own favor, including omitting elements of the discussion from FairSearch's own coverage.