After months and years of probing due to complaints from unnamed Android manufacturers, the European Commission has finally committed to a formal and full investigation into Google to see if they’re violating antitrust rules in Europe. The original issue the European Commission wanted to dig into was the supposed forced bundling of their Android apps with Android phones. Google has never been one to take things lying down, and its fight with the European Union is no different.
Google has argued their point in the past, noting that their app bundling requirements are only made as part of a licensing agreement for OEMs to be able to use Google’s unique and proprietary services. If you just want to use Android without the Google flavor, anyone can do that at any time.
In a response filed Thursday, the company defended its practice of bundling a suite of its own apps on all phones running on its Android software. Google has now made the response public on its blog where Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel highlighted the difficulties of maintaining the fragile, open ecosystem of apps that has always been at the heart of Android software.
Google explains that Android’s open nature can survive only by balancing the needs of users and developers. The position taken by the EU would upset this balance, by pushing in the direction of systems closed-source, that is, with less innovation, less choice, less competition and higher prices.
The response is organized on three fundamental points:
1. Google objects to several of the commission’s premises, including the view that Google’s Android does not compete with Apple’s iOS operating system that runs iPhones and iPads.
Walker said: “The commission’s case is based on the idea that Android doesn’t compete with Apple’s iOS. We don’t see it that way. We don’t think Apple does either. Or phone makers. Or developers. Or users. To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today’s competitive smartphone landscape.”
2. The Mountain View, California, search giant also argued that the bundling of services and the minimum requirements it issues to phone manufacturers helps stave off such fragmentation where one app is compatible with only a certain devices, which is a top complaint of consumers and developers already.
3. The company claims that its agreements with smartphone makers, which insist that a suite of Google apps be pre-installed on devices with some positioned on the homescreen when a device is first started, allow Google to distribute Android for free and continue investing in the development of the platform. Thus keeping the cost of Android smartphones lower. he very idea behind Android, according to Google was to give phone makers an OS for free so they don’t spend money creating their own OS which ultimately increases the cost of smartphones.
From the outside it might look like a case of fusty European regulation trying to stunt progressive Silicon Valley innovation, but the commission’s pursuit of Google is ultimately based on leveling the playing field. It wants to ensure that Google’s rivals — which are mainly other US-based companies — have the same opportunities to make headway in the region.
Google obviously feels strongly about their stance seeing as it hasn’t changed since the very first word of this antitrust investigation bubbled. Will the European Commission agree with all their points with the same confidence, though? That’s to be determined by the intricate agreement details uncovered in their investigation, so stay tuned for more on this ordeal coming out of that region.
Do you agree with Google’s response? Or do you feel Google’s policies on Android need to be a bit more loose?