Google group, Alphabet has responded to the European Union’s anti-trust charges relating to pre-installed apps and modification limits on the developer’s Android operating system.
The EU’s case claims that Google is using its dominance in the market to push device manufacturers into favouring Google’s apps, search functions and browser over competitors.
EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced the investigation in April stating ‘Based on our investigation thus far, we believe that Google's behaviour denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules. These rules apply to all companies active in Europe. Google now has the opportunity to reply to the Commission's concerns.’
Responding to these claims, in a wide ranging blog post titled ‘Android: Choice at every turn’, the company’s senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker argues, ‘Any phone maker can download Android and modify it in any way they choose. But that flexibility makes Android vulnerable to fragmentation, a problem that plagued previous operating systems like Unix and Symbian. When anyone can modify your code, how do you ensure there’s a common, consistent version of the operating system, so that developers don’t have to go through the hassle and expense of building multiple versions of their apps? To manage this challenge, we work with hardware makers to establish a minimum level of compatibility among Android devices.’
The statement also points out that the EU’s own research shows Apple’s IOS to be a rivial, while the EU case ignores this, that any app can be uninstalled and that manufacturer’s are not ‘obliged’ to pre-install Google tools.
However, relating to this last point, not all of the EU’s claims are about manufacturer’s being ‘obliged’ to use them, rather given a carrot and stick approach to push the use of Google tools. It seems the difference between the two may be a source of lengthy debate.
Russian software and search tool developer Yandex disagreed with Kent Walker’s rebuttal, with their head of press, Anna Ivanova-Galitsina, stating: ‘While we respect the Android operating system (OS) and the opportunities this has created in the marketplace, in our experience, the system has not been balanced or fair. Despite the fact that The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has found that Google has broken antitrust laws, the competitive landscape still in practice does not allow our applications to be installed on the home screen of Android devices, among other issues. As it stands, in Europe and in Russia, consumers still do not have choices at every turn. We believe consumers everywhere should have equal access to all applications should they be search or other services.’
Though a third-party in these European Commission charges, Yandex had previously sought to bring similar charges against Android through both the European Commission and the Russian anti-monopoly service (FAS), being successful in the latter.