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Google’s OS and Service Integration Hindering Competition, Case Says

July 19, 2014 - Written By Phil Bourget

Google is everywhere digitally.  If you have an Android device (especially a Nexus or Motorola Moto device) Google and its services are the majority of pre-installed applications.  And is that so bad?  You can use your phone to get someone’s phone number, call them to get an address, plug it into Maps navigation, and get there with ease, and without having to use non-Google apps.  And that’s great for consumers that want a device that just works great out of the box.  That’s amazing for Google, since their mobile operating system has the largest market share globally of any of them (including iOS, Windows Phone OS, Blackberry OS, among the may).  But who it’s not great for is also worth noting, especially because the recent lawsuit against Google involves arguments in favor of the ‘other guys’, even on their own devices and platforms.  Here’s the deal.

Google deals with a lot of disapproval regarding the forcing of its app suite to be installed and set as a default function on many of the best selling and most desired/anticipated devices each year.  The other operating systems, iOS and Windows Phone OS in particular, feel left out that their own apps aren’t direct options for a consumer using their device (is their app or service exists on Android or the Play Store, that is), and the issue of the Google-ness running into these OSes is also seen in Google’s improvement and release of most of its popular or core apps like Gmail, YouTube, and Search for iOS, leaving Apple’s often-lesser services to be neglected and/or put away in folders to be forgotten about.  Lawsuits are great for bringing this kind of stuff to the forefront of a situation, even if it is just to say ‘Google’s app is first, make it not be’ (or something of the like).

The case at hand, a consumer suit specifically, was filed in May, bringing to the California court’s attention how Google forced its suite of apps upon any handset manufacturer (specifically HTC and Samsung) and their desire to make an Android device.  The direct threat is this though: with Google’s apps set as defaults for many (if not all, sometimes) of a device’s functions and capabilities, the consumer is indirectly dissuaded from downloading any competitor’s app that offers the same (or similar, in the cases of cloud storage, Internet browsing, or navigation, for example). Service and capability/ies, and thus restricts possible business of the competitor.  One large example is Microsoft’s Bing search app, which is (for obvious reasons) not pre-installed or made default.

Reuters references the companies’ (Microsoft, Oracle, Nokia, Expedia, and TripAdvisor) summary of a case made against Google with an ‘anti-trust’ label put on the front, regarding the same type of default-app-disenfranchisement regarding profit and usership.  “Google’s apps ‘are widely used on Android by requiring default placement and other mechanisms for disadvantaging competing apps'” is what Reuters wrote, and we can see the point of their argument: competition dies if Google has its apps everywhere and a consumer doesn’t know how to change the defaults.

Google, though, makes itself as helpful as possible (specifically in Europe, where it was reportedly cooperating nicely with European regulators.  And in the United States, Google’s home and motherland, Google still faces the scrutiny of not just government official and regulators, but also the consumers that are the target audience for their products and services.  Some of the larger concerns with Google now are its agreements with other companies.  One in particular, which is also specifically noted in the case, is Apple, and the agreement with Apple, besides not suing for patents between the two giants, is Google’s Search being the default Internet search engine, since Apple lacks its own search engine.  The case goes to call the agreement ‘detrimental to the whole of the mobile universe.  The case goes on to reason that the massive stepping-on of competitors toes is significant because Apple both has a lower market share than Google in usership as well as its absence among defendants in the case (obviously the reason that competitors suffer, on a smaller, less popular OS).  Only time and court rulings will tell what happens to Google with its Android-wide defaultism, and whether a judge will find a problem with it.  If not, people will find another case to shove at Google soon enough.  If a problem does arise, though, Google could suffer extensively, since they are being harassed for their presence in their own operating system.  Stay tuned for further developments regarding this case.