European Challenge To Google’s Android Dominance

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Google Android RobotThe European Commission has formally launched an anti-trust action against Google for allegedly abusing its position and dominance over the Android operating system.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday, the European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said she had reached a preliminary view that Google was in breach of EU law.  Ms Vestager said Google had harmed both competitors and consumers by placing requirements on mobile manufacturers and operators to preinstall some of its own products and, in some cases, set them as default or exclusive options on handsets.  In some cases, she said, this had been as a condition of Google’s agreement to grant a licence for the use of some of its apps.

Google has been given 12 weeks to respond, and, if found guilty, the company faces a fine and could be required to change its practices.

Android Alternatives

The first thing that comes to my mind is that Android is an open source and anyone can adopt or adapt it as they see fit. Second, some manufacturers such as Samsung pretty much always load their devices with bloatware featuring their own apps. Third, anyone buying an Android device can quickly disable any built in apps especially if they have the latest Marshmallow operating system issued by Google. Finally, if someone is that hacked off with the built-in Google offerings they can root the device and delete them all or buy an iPhone.

I buy Android because I can hack it about and personalise it with a wide range of apps available on the Play Store. Let’s examine what the EC is bitching about on pre-installed software and I will give an alternative that anyone can install.

  • Gmail – CloudMagic
  • Google Chrome – Dolphin
  • Google Drive – Zoho
  • Google Hangouts – WhatsApp
  • Google Maps – Waze
  • Google Play Movies – Netflix
  • Google Play Music – Spotify
  • Google Photos – Flickr
  • Google Play Store – Amazon
  • Google Search – Duck Dock Go
  • YouTube – Vimeo

Google also sets a few requirements for when the smartphone or tablet is booted up for the first time. The Google Search box must be placed on the first home screen, as must the icon for Google Play and a folder with Google’s other app. Wow, big deal. It takes seconds to delete the search box and is generally one of the first things I do with a new phone or tablet.

Android Must Haves

The Guardian writes:   “he crux of the EC’s complaint against Google is that the company will not allow manufacturers to include the Google Play Store, which has the largest collection of third-party Android apps available, without including both Google’s Search app, the company’s Chrome browser and having Google Search set as default.

“he EC says that this practice “may lead to a further consolidation of the dominant position of Google Search in general internet search services” and that it is “concerned that these practices affect the ability of competing mobile browsers to compete with Google Chrome”.  he EC also said it was concerned that Google’s practices “hinder the development of operating systems based on the Android open source code and the opportunities they would offer for the development of new apps and services.”

Anti American

I think the EC has got it wrong and there is a hint of Anti-Americanism here.  I remember working for the EC in the mid 1990s and there was a strong anti-American feeling then. The trouble was all the office software such as WordPerfect and AmiPro was also American so the EC settled on Microsoft Office.

Also, why isn’t the EC looing into Apple, which in my view has a far more prohibitive approach to its operating system  and associated apps than Google. Maybe it is because it manufacturers its own phones; who knows.

I would love to be a fly on the wall in EC Towers and see what search engine the bureaucrats in Brussels use.

Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, said: “Android has helped foster a remarkable and, importantly, sustainable ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation. We look forward to working with the European Commission.”

I predict a lot of huffing and puffing and arm wrestling because a mutually agreeable solution is found and very little will change.

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