European Commission investigates Google's Android

On April 15, the European Commission unveiled a press release stating formal proceedings against Google in relation to Android’s potential violation of the EU’s antitrust rules.

The Commission’s investigation will look to see if Google entered into anticompetitive agreements and/or "abused a dominant position," and as result, illegally denied competition with other mobile operating systems (like Apple iOS and Windows Phone), mobile apps and services in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Android is an open-source OS, which means a person can use and make contributions to it for free. The Commission believes these antitrust issues with Android arise when Google’s proprietary applications and services are introduced into the OS because manufacturers have to obtain the company’s permission to be able to use them.

The investigation is based on three contentions:

  1. Whether Google has illegally hindered the access of other mobile OSes, their apps and their services by incentivizing smartphone and tablet manufactures to install its apps and services, exclusively.
  2. Whether Google has prevented manufacturers who desire to install its apps and services the ability to create competing versions (forks) of Android.
  3. Whether Google has illegally hindered the market access of its rivals by "bundling certain Google applications and services with other Google applications, services, and/or application programming interfaces."

Google’s VP of Engineering, Hiroshi Lockheimer, came out with a response on the same day in which he states that the company’s agreements with its partners are voluntary, and they can use Android without Google.

He adds that its app distribution agreements ensure that users can have a good out-of-the-box experience with apps already on their home screens. This in turn helps the company compete with Apple, Microsoft and others who preload their devices with similar apps and services. In particular, he said, “there are far fewer Google apps pre-installed on Android phones than Apple apps on iOS devices.”

Across Europe, Android had a 69.9 percent market share in 2014, 3.2 percent lower than in the previous year, according to Kantar World Panel. In comparison, iOS led the U.S. with 47.4 percent.

For now, we’ll have to wait until the conclusion of the Commission’s investigation into how Google was able to dominate the European market.

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