The European Commission has formally lodged an antitrust complaint regarding Android.
The European Commission has informed Google of its preliminary view that the company has, in breach of EU antitrust rules, abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.
The Commission’s preliminary view is that Google has implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search. First, the practices mean that Google Search is pre-installed and set as the default, or exclusive, search service on most Android devices sold in Europe. Second, the practices appear to close off ways for rival search engines to access the market, via competing mobile browsers and operating systems. In addition, they also seem to harm consumers by stifling competition and restricting innovation in the wider mobile space.
Google has already responded in a blog post (read the whole thing):
The European Commission has been investigating our approach, and today issued a Statement of Objections, raising questions about its impact on competition. We take these concerns seriously, but we also believe that our business model keeps manufacturers’ costs low and their flexibility high, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices. That’s how we designed the model.
This EU antitrust complaint is one of the biggest jokes in EU antitrust history; an even bigger joke than the Windows N editions. Not only is Android open source, the operating system has created a vastly more open and consumer- and competition friendly mobile operating system than anything else that has ever existed on the market. The situation before Android was absolutely dreadful – dozens, if not hundreds, of closed little feature phone platforms, the closed-source Windows Mobile, the completely locked-down iOS, the heavily fragmented, obtuse, and effectively locked-down Symbian.
The situation after Android is that any user has a lot of control over the software they run on their phone, with tons of cheap, yet high quality devices to choose from. You can install whatever software you want, from whatever source you want, without having to go through Google or anyone else. Developers can target a vast segment of the market – Android has 80% market share in Europe – without being beholden to the nonsensical whims of a single corporation. In addition, users can run Android on pretty much any phone without any additional Google software or services.
The situation clearly isn’t perfect by any means, but the real problems with mobile software are not in Android – or iOS for that matter – but in the baseband processors, firmware, and similar software. Far less sexy, of course, and yet a far bigger problem that needs to be tackled.
This entire antitrust complaint is a complete waste of money and taxpayer resources – which, coincidentally, makes it a very EU thing to do.
“This entire antitrust complaint is a complete waste of money and taxpayer resources – which, coincidentally, makes it a very EU thing to do.”
Antitrust laws don’t make sense when they punish a company just for being successful, as appears to be the case here.
Google isn’t even charging money for Android, they may be making money indirectly through ads, but they are making that ad money on all platforms and devices, so what’s the point?
Has anyone ever been forced to use an Android device ever? There were Nokia and Blackberry and Windows Phone and iOS, and except for iOS consumers favored Android consistently.
Part of the reason for that happening was exactly that Android itsself doesn’t cost a dime and runs on devices that are cheap or high-end.
And it’s not a terrible OS either, lots of customizability you don’t get with any other OS (with the possible exception of some niche OSs).
The only lock-in you could possibly see with Android is from the Play Store and Play Services. Which is a fair point, but then again are Nokia, Windows Phone, iOS, Blackberry and whatnot really better? No. Most of them have far more “lock-in” to their APIs and services. With Android you can most of the time choose not to use a part you don’t like and replace it with something else.
On iOS you can’t even install a proper third-party browser! They have really stringent restrictions on what they allow in the App Store and which techniques you may use to program your app.
This shows that politicians and vast parts of the population (which politicians mirror) have no clue at all about technology and how the parts work together internally, what Open Source means, or that Android is basically a free platform with a not-so-free store on top of it, but at least a store that you can replace with alternative stores if you so choose.
The real scandal here is that politicians can use their power to change the course of a product which consumers largely like, just because they can win political points or extract money from a huge foreign corporation.
I wonder if EU politicians would be doing the same thing if Google was European? Unlikely.
They should be concered about bankers and institutions that are “too large to fail”, instead they want to punish a successful open source technology because it is liked by a greater number of people than anythinge else?
That sort of stuff makes me question why I should even bother to go vote!
Especially at the EU level they seem to do whatever they hell they can get away with and they seem to believe they can get away with everything.
What should Google be doing in their opinion? Make Android not free anymore? Make it completely proprietory? Just abandon the project now?
Antitrust laws are supposed to keep companies in line that gain their market share in an unfair fashion and who actively try to supress their smaller competition. Google is doing neither. Better yet, Google is a far smaller company in raw numbers (market cap, revenue) than Apple or Microsoft. David is beating Goliath (even two Goliaths), and now we want to punish David?
I want to punch something right now really hard.
They want to win political browny points from people who are completely clueless.
Unfortunately most people are clueless on most issues most of the time.
Edited 2016-04-20 11:15 UTC