'Android is a below-cost trojan horse': Nokia, Microsoft, Oracle take Google complaint to EU

'Android is a below-cost trojan horse': Nokia, Microsoft, Oracle take Google complaint to EU

Summary: Europe's competition commissioner says it was already looking into Android's position.

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TOPICS: Android, Legal, EU
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A European search lobby whose members include Nokia, Microsoft and Oracle have filed a complaint with Europe's competition regulator accusing Google of running an anticompetitive Android strategy.

The complaint was filed by Fairsearch.org, which besides the three tech giants, include Google's vertical search rivals such as Kayak, TripAdvisor, Hotwire and Expedia among others.

Fairsearch accuses Google of distributing Android at below-cost, making it difficult for rivals to compete with its mobile platform, which accounted for 70 percent of smartphones shipped in 2012.

While Android is free for device makers, these manufacturers must include Google apps such as YouTube or its Play store  and preload Google mobile services to give them prominent default placement on the phone, according to the complaint.

"Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a 'trojan horse' to deceive partners, monopolise the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data," said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel to the FairSearch coalition.

"We are asking the Commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market. Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system."

The new Android complaint comes as Europe continues negotiations with Google over how it treats and labels its own services, which stems from an inquiry into Google's dominant position in search that was opened in November 2010.

Google submitted a proposal to address these issues last month, but it appears whatever it contained did not meet demands by Europe's competition chief Joaquín Almunia.

Almunia told the New York Times he expected to receive new proposals this week from Google that he hoped would make it clearer for users to see when Google was promoting its own services over rivals on both mobile and desktop search.

According to the Times, Almunia said Europe would not demand Google change its search algorithm, but said it may ask Google to "signal what are the relevant options, alternative options, in the way they present the results", adding that the choice "should be a real one".

Almunia declined to comment on the new complaint, but said the commission had already been looking into Android separate to the broader search inquiry from 2010.

"We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission," Google said in a statement.

Topics: Android, Legal, EU

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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128 comments
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  • Microsoft and Nokia

    Funny how two companies that can't get a foothold in the mobile phone marketplace go to such lengths. May I offer some advice? Produce products that may be innovative fresh and appealing to the marketplace and then you may, just may, attract more interest. In the mean time stop whining and get to work!
    Scott Hastings
    • Do you have a clue about history

      Have you heard about Browser choice in EU and the reasons behind it? And why MS has to unbundle Media player from Windows?
      Owllll1net
      • Nope

        It is open source and you don't even have to put the google apps on any device.

        This is more like iLife and OS X.
        slickjim
        • How the heck did you manage to bring Apple into this?

          The article itself starts with MS, Oracle, Nokia, and finally Google. No mention what so ever about Apple but it's always someone like well you who drags Apple into an argument where it has no mention. Why?

          Pagan jim
          James Quinn
          • To give another example...

            It would be equivalent to having a license agreement to bundle Microsoft Office with Windows but by agreeing to that, you had to bundle it on all licensed devices.

            The alternative being that you could not bundle any of the applications but could provide the core operating system with your own applications. The example of this in the Android world is Amazon and the Kindle Fire line of devices.
            basotl
        • What does any of this

          have to do with Apple? Stick to the topic iTroll.
          athynz
        • reply

          Actually, Android requires certain (not all) google apps to function properly.
          fiercefire
      • Still an idiot

        What is stopping MS from forking Android and starting to compete?

        Hmm. Nothing?

        There is no Google Android monopoly. Get over it.
        D.T.Long
        • Since Microsoft is a large multinational and one geek* in mommy's basement,

          what you say is true. Nothing is preventing Microsoft from crafting some competition and shoving it to market along with the other piggies (What were they on in 1760 when they came up with that ditty...)

          * a penniless geek, or the average joe worker these days
          HypnoToad72
        • Just another way...

          ...to "prove" that MS was unfairly singled out for antitrust violations in 1999-2000 (as whined by MS' loyal supporters here on ZDNet ever since). The problem with MS is that having market dominance isn't illegal (and shouldn't be), but trying to maintain it by restraining trade is.
          John L. Ries
          • Not unfairly

            MS forced companies like Dell into contracts which made Dell pay MS a fee for every computer made whether or not Windows would be on that computer. MS is guilty of many things, they just don't like it when someone else does it.
            new gawker
        • It makes perfect sence, the only profit money

          Microsoft makes from mobile comes from Android; if they want to make more money from mobile they should go where the money is, this is Android, and abandon the marginal OS they are trying to push without any success.
          theo_durcan
      • Owllll1net: "Do you have a clue about history"

        Let's talk recent history. *If* the EC is to take this complaint seriously,the first thing they should do is request that Microsoft provide (1) a copy of all of it's non-disclosure agreements with various OEMs regarding Android and (2) it's income related to these non-disclosure agreements.

        Microsoft is making a ton of money from Android. Thus, it's argument is invalid.

        Oracle? It's just sour grapes from Larry because he lost the court case over Java and Dalvik with Google. Now he can't afford to buy Molokai. It's a sad world, indeed.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • @owlnet5, History

        “[PJ: Remember when SCO Group complained to the courts that the GPL, the license on Linux, was UnConstitutional? No one, Darl McBride, told them can compete with free. And Microsoft helped to fund SCO. So did Sun, now belonging to Oracle. And here we go again. How pitiful.]”


        http://www.groklaw.net/index.php
        daikon
      • Media player from Windows

        That's because they didn't want to pay license fees for codecs.
        Alan Smithie
        • Specifically

          They didn't want to pay those license fees to Google.
          symbolset
      • Some of us have plenty of clue as to Microsoft's history

        We happen to know it was Microsoft, not EU who insisted on providing the browser choice in Europe, in exchange of lower fines.

        What was your interpretation of the browse choice?
        danbi
    • Google = digital advertising

      is simply shipping free OS to get some free ad space. Its a marketing giant and is pushing the whole software market into a wrong direction. by the time people realize that the situation will be worse. you know why?? because the so called google doesn't care about anything other than digital advertising.
      dugbug11
      • So it's anything but "free"

        You believe it to be free, but in the background they are taking everything you do, upload, et al, and profit from it.

        It is anything but free.

        And why are you criticizing a successful company? Google does digital advertising. I had no idea Google had to care about anything except its ability to profit, regardless of cost.
        HypnoToad72
    • Opera and Real Player

      Funny how so many companies that can't get a foothold in the browser marketplace go to such lengths as to petition the UE to have a browser ballot added, or even Media player removed.

      May I offer some advice? Produce products that may be innovative fresh and appealing to the marketplace and then you may, just may, attract more interest. In the mean time stop whining and get to work.
      William Farrel