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Competitors Complain To EC That Free Android Is a 'Trojan Horse' 315

Posted by timothy
from the takes-exactly-one-to-know-exactly-one dept.
First time accepted submitter DW100 writes "Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle have taken it upon themselves to moan to the European Commission about Google's Android dominance, which they say is an underhand bid to control the entire mobile market. The firms are part of the FairSearch group, which has just filed a complaint that Google is using Android as a 'Trojan Horse' to take control of the mobile market and all the related advertising revenue. Microsoft would of course know all about this, being at the end of several similar anti-competitive complaints in the past."
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Competitors Complain To EC That Free Android Is a 'Trojan Horse'

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  • News Flash! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bondsbw (888959) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:30AM (#43400327)

    Company makes billions of dollars; wants more. Competitors not happy.

    Now on to how Justin Bieber's pet monkey was confiscated at an airport...

    • Re:News Flash! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:35AM (#43400405) Homepage Journal

      Company makes billions of dollars; wants more. Competitors not happy.

      Translation: "They're doing what we would do, but they're a lot better at it than we are."

      You never know how the EC will react, tho.

      • by clemdoc (624639)
        Worst thing that could happen is probably some kind of 'Do you want to install Bing or Google as default earch thingie" search-engine choice, like Microsoft had to provide for IE / FF / Opera etc. and I doubt it'll go even that far.
        • Re:News Flash! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mwvdlee (775178) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:09AM (#43400717) Homepage

          As a device manufacturer, if you want to use Google Play on your device, you have to use other Google services as well.
          If you want to use Android without Google services, you can. But you won't get to use Play either.
          Google isn't using Android as a crutch, it's using Play.

          • by Barryke (772876)

            We all realize, but i'll say it now, Gmail is a crutch as well. Its just so excelent!

            Me for example, i ca not use an email service without (labels AND conversation folding AND webinterface AND app).
            It is the reason i can't really see a workable scenario to switch to Windows Phone 8..

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Play isn't so much a bid for dominance as it is an attempt to match Apple's store. But apparently, only Google deserves to be called out for it's marketplace, even though unlike Apple you can easily install non-market software if you chose to.

            BlackBerry has taken responsibility for their bad management and lack of innovation - why can't these guys? Oh, right, because unlike BlackBerry, they have no other option. They've already run their phone departments into the ground.

            • by Xest (935314)

              Microsoft has a store on it's phone too. Microsoft and Apple also now have stores on their desktops.

              They couldn't single out play even if they wanted to, precisely because they already mimic it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They could make Google refund users the money they paid for Android.

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      Yeah, but their complaint is pretty retarded.

      It'd be like Pepsi complaining that Coke were trying to use a Trojan Horse to dominate the market, if Coke gave away free drinks, and also made the recipe freely available.

      Sure it might give them market share, but given the 'free recipe' bit... kinda hard to dominate the market and keep others from using it to do the same thing.

      • Re:News Flash! (Score:4, Informative)

        by bfandreas (603438) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:13AM (#43400753)
        The complaint isn't retarded even if it is a bit of a strawman.

        Google ist THE search engine and THE advertising agency and THE data harvester(shared with Facebook which is easily avoidable) on the internet.
        If you combine this with being THE supplier fro mobile computing then you get a stiuation where even better competitors would not be able to compete.

        The European Model(excluding that detached insular bit in the most polluted part of the North Sea which insists on confusing everybody including themselves) is having private enterprise with regulation to ensure fair competition. So this is quite up their alley. Rightfully so. Google is becoming a bit terrifying.

        This is thugs complaining of unhelpfully having their nose broken for them which might seem silly at first but they do have a point.
        • I don't see it stopping Amazon from offering their own services independently of Google.

          • by bfandreas (603438)

            I don't see it stopping Amazon from offering their own services independently of Google.

            Again: the complaint is that Google uses their market power on Android to get their users onto their services. And that they are a very powerful entity on both.
            Amazon doesn't use it's market share of Kindle Fire to lure you into their shop. The opposite is quite true.

            This isn't a complaint that Android is too big and that they can't compete with it. That'd be laughed right out of Strassbourg back into the clown car it departed from.

            • Re:News Flash! (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Omestes (471991) <{omestes} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:57AM (#43401443) Homepage Journal

              Again: the complaint is that Google uses their market power on Android to get their users onto their services

              Isn't that the game of all mobile operating systems these days? iOS tries to leverage you into their universe by corralling you into their shop system, but here you can't easily escape. MS is hoping for the same thing, hooking you into their universe, with no escape. Amazon is doing the same, with their gimped version of Android. At least Google allows you to escape, and install apps from other sources, and avoid using their services (which obviously they'd prefer you use, but they are still mostly optional san third party shenanigans).

              There isn't a single good guy in the mobile universe. But Google is probably as close as you'd get right now.

        • by morgauxo (974071)

          Facebook... Easily Avoidable!!

          I guess we won't be hearing much from you pretty soon given Slashdot's announcement the other day that the comment system will be migrating over to FB.

        • Re:News Flash! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by DuckDodgers (541817) <keeper_of_the_wolf&yahoo,com> on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @11:01AM (#43401479)
          Usually for an "unfair business practices" complaint, you have to demonstrate harm to consumers, not competing businesses. If Google comes to totally dominate the mobile device market, they can burn consumers by.... what? Android is free, so they can't raise the price on the operating system and application licenses. Android is open source, so if Google raises the device on the next Galaxy Nexus phone, competing vendors can sell Android phones with lower prices. And also because Android is open source, competing companies are free to distribute their own version that uses Bing or Yahoo or any other search engine, any competing Maps service, etc....

          Google is terrifying. But this isn't a traditional monopoly, where the owner can suddenly triple the prices or box out the competition. Because Android is open source software, Google benefits tremendously from it but doesn't own it.
    • Biebs had his monkey impounded? :(

      That's make for a more interesting discussion than the axis of evil complaining about Google.

  • by yincrash (854885) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:31AM (#43400347)
    If you don't like it, release your own free operating system where you package your search engine it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:35AM (#43400415)

      If you don't like it, release your own free operating system where you package your search engine it.

      Google is packaging its entire search engine on Android?! No wonder my Samsung Galaxy Nexus only has a battery life of 10 hours!

    • by mrquagmire (2326560) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:41AM (#43400455)
      Whoa, slow down there. Nobody wants competition here. They want to manipulate the government into giving them an advantage through preferential legislation. You know, capitalism.
      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:07AM (#43400695)
        What you described is not capitalism, it is a variation on fascism. It is one variant of the economic system that you end up with when you ask the government to regulate ever more aspects of the economy in order to protect people from their own bad decisions. All of the variants look pretty much the same, the only question is whether the people who benefit are people who accumulated wealth before you started down that path and use it to acquire political power as this process goes forward or whether the people who benefit are people who accumulated political power before you started down that path and use it to acquire wealth as this process goes forward. Of course what often happens is some combination of the two. The one thing that never happens as the government regulates ever greater parts of the economy is that the common person benefits.
        • The one thing that never happens as the government regulates ever greater parts of the economy is that the common person benefits.

          Really?

          So you think it would be better if AT&T still had the telecommunications monopoly in the US? Or Standard Oil the oil monopoly? Do you support Intel's antritrust actions against AMD, or Microsoft's antitrust actions against general computing and IT progress? What if the SEC ceased to exist and business to manipulate markets for their own profit-driven motives and muscling out competitors and small-name investors (in fact, if they were doing a decent job, then there wouldn't be valueless high-frequ

      • We all fall short of our I guess. From a collective down to the individual, the ideal doesn't exist. The only metric worth considering might be to what degree you're being victimized by whatever ideology is popular at the time (government, economic, or otherwise).
      • Al Gore wanted to deregulate the telecoms industry back in the day but when he went to congress he said: “The response was ‘hell no: If we deregulate these guys, how will we raise money from them?’”

    • If you don't like it, release your own free operating system where you package your search engine it.

      They could release their own devices using Android. Or they could get handset manufacturers to use their search and advertising services. I don't want this to happen, but they really are just whining about nothing.

      • I don't want this to happen, but they really are just whining about nothing.

        As I understand the article, they're whining about the combination of these facts: First, unlike Amazon and SlideME, Google has chosen not to make its store available to the public as an Android package. Second, Google has somehow convinced too many Android application publishers to make their applications exclusive to its store.

        • by MrDoh! (71235)
          There's exclusive Android publishers? If there are, I'd think it'd be more likely that they find it simple to deploy on Android, not that they were being paid to avoid Apple surely?
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      The main difference is that they won't be doing it in plain view as Android is pretty much open source (would be trojan if anyone can see the code?), they would have the code hidden and with licenses that forbids you to know what they really do (the perfect environment to plant an entire army of trojan horses).
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by djdanlib (732853)

      Nobody's exposed to the price of the OS on mobile. The carrier doesn't add an OS fee to the phone and neither does the manufacturer. They don't offer a discount because the OS is free, or the high-end Android phones would be advertised as less expensive because of it. Believe me, advertising would get ahold of that and market the heck out of it because adding the word "free" to your marketing material attracts customers like flies to honey. No, they fix price points the same as their competition and say "se

  • Linux legacy. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:34AM (#43400391)

    Interesting. What Linux couldn't accomplish on the desktop, it's accomplishing everywhere else.

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:35AM (#43400401)

    They are advertising conduits. Which advertising conduit do you want to purchase? This one has extra advertising!

    Thank goodness for large corporations. Who else could properly define the purpose of a telephone?

  • So, 'free' is bad? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SternisheFan (2529412) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:35AM (#43400413)
    From the article: The FairSearch complaint boils down to Google using Android as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to sign up advertising partners, monopolise the mobile market and control user data by letting mobile hardware manufacturers use its operating system free of charge.

    The group is concerned that as the online advertising market shifts increasingly to mobile platforms with the rise in smartphones and tablets, Google is giving itself an unfair head start.

    “Google achieved its dominance in the smartphone operating system market by giving Android to device-makers for ‘free’. But in reality, Android phone makers who want to include must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play are required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone,” the group argued.

    “This disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today. Google’s predatory distribution of Android at below-cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform.”

    So, this is 'wrong' because Google doesn't charge for their OS? Man, MS is getting blatantly desperate sounding. Make an OS that people will want to use, then you might even get them to buy it!

    • I thought it is more than free, isn't it Open Source?
      If I don't like the default application packages, can't I make source code changes to it? I thought Careers or phone makers added their own. My Samsung has their own applications as well.

    • by lord_mike (567148) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:56AM (#43400609)

      Then how does Amazon get away with Android without all the Google stuff on their Kindle Fire?

    • Not saying anything about the merits of the complaint, but the argument is that Google is giving away an OS in order to gain share of the smart phone market. Google doesn't make its revenue directly through from OS sales, instead it relies on advertising revenue which it unfairly gains by providing an OS for free that gives Google preferred status in searches and ad revenue. Microsoft knows this because they have used similar methods in the past.

      I'm indifferent since a similar complaint was used against M

    • "distribution of Android at below-cost"

      What, exactly, is the cost of Android, per installation? As has been pointed out, it's an open source operating system. Much of the work on the OS was done before Google took over. They altered the Linux kernel, added some stuff, borrowed other stuff, and packaged it up, and gave it away. What's the cost? Has it cost Google as much as ten cents per phone to have their OS installed on phones? Maybe fifty cents? I really don't know, but I'll bet it can't be as hig

    • by invid (163714)
      Microsoft first made it's money by selling operating systems, and for a couple decades, it was a smart move. Google makes it's money by being an advertising conduit to as many people as possible. The greatest threat to that conduit is the walled garden, enforced by competing operating systems that Google can't control. Open source Android is a brilliant way to neutralize the walled garden. Advertising generates far more money globally than selling software. We could do a lot worse than having the internet's
  • Terrifying, truly. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:37AM (#43400429) Journal

    Google's nefarious release of Android-related material under the 'Google Public License'(which allows you to use the code; but requires that all web activity be logged and sent to Google) was truly a masterstroke for market dominance.

    Oh, wait, you mean that Android is a mixture of Apache and GPL components, and Google has had somewhat indifferent luck with preventing other vendors(Amazon, Samsung, etc.) from quite successfully using it for their own purposes while cutting them out of the picture entirely? Oh, um, never mind then...

  • by blarkon (1712194) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:42AM (#43400461)
    Google is really good at coming into markets and offering a free product and in doing that sort of stymieing the development of alternatives. We can see it with what happened with the introduction of Google Reader - the introduction of a good enough free reader from Google functionally nuked the development of alternatives. I imagine that if Microsoft had started giving away its operating systems for free back in the 90's (and finagling things so that they made their money further up the stack) there would have been less interest in Linux. When any of the world's big companies give away something for nothing, it's worth having a closer look at what the catch is.
    • by lord_mike (567148) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:55AM (#43400599)

      Microsoft did practically give away their OS for free. Major PC vendors got to install it on their products for only a few dollars per copy--a low enough cost that there was no advantage looking for other competitors to get a better deal.

      • by devent (1627873)

        If Microsoft would just offer Windows for a "few dollars", i.e. for a "low enough cost that there was no advantage looking for other competitors to get a better deal" like you say, there wouldn't by any problems.

        The problems arises from the facts that a) Microsoft demanded higher prices for a Windows license if the OEMs sold PCs without Windows and b) Microsoft gets money from OEMs on PCs sold that do not included Windows at all. See Wikipedia for references:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundling_of_Microsof [wikipedia.org]

    • by knarf (34928) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:36AM (#43401115) Homepage

      If Microsoft had given away Windows for free, and included the source, and put it all under a license which made it possible to create your own derivative without being beholden to Microsoft in any way... the most likely outcome would have been the replacement of wine [winehq.org] and a possible 'Windows shell' on top of X11 or even an alternative graphics environment based on GDI. I don't think those who chose Linux - or any other unix - would deem the Windows kernel to be a suitable replacement. I know I would not have felt this, nor do I still.

      I don't think other vendors would have complained like Microsoft and its gang are complaining now. Complaining about Google giving away Android is a bit like complaining about Sinterklaas [wikipedia.org] or Santa Claus [wikipedia.org] or jultomten [wikipedia.org] giving presents to children by claiming this to be a nefarious scheme for the little brats to start believing in gods or the supernatural. Yes, there will be people who make this claim. No, they are generally not taken seriously.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:44AM (#43400483) Journal

    Are complaining they can't get revenue from it.

  • by houbou (1097327) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:48AM (#43400527) Journal
    I think that Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle are going in the stand-up comedy business. Because this complaint is certainly the funniest one I've seen.

    Open Source is more popular commercially than they are. Gee, who would have thought of that!

    For years, I've always advocated that Microsoft should release DOS and then Windows for free at the very least for non-business use. If you need support, buy it from Microsoft.

    They've been scoffing at open source for years and now, it's proven to work and its working on devices such as phones and tablets which are consumed even more than PCs, which is why they are sorely pissed and scared.

    Eventually all of this means that tablets, phones and new generations of portable laptops/netbooks will have the powers of PCs and more and won't be running on Windows or any other proprietary platforms.

    But that's called competition, and well, the thing is, while Google may be the leaders of Android, as we can plainly see, Android is free and customized by all as they see fit, so, it's not an actually anti-competitive at all.

    Good Luck to Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle, for they will need it! :)
    • by mattr (78516)

      I believe the next step is, ...And then you win.

    • by invid (163714)
      In ten years all operating systems will be Android, which will be confusing because eventually we will be building real androids, and we'll have to make up a new name for them because everyone will be thinking of the operating system.
  • Microsoft would of course know all about this, being at the end of several similar anti-competitive complaints in the past."

    That does not mean that Google should get off the hook, IIRC Microsoft got some heavy fines and so should Google if they are being Anti-Competitive.

    • by Wookact (2804191)
      Except for the fact that google has done nothing wrong.

      Google allows ANYONE to use their OS, only requiring a cert process if they want to use google apps.
      You can get google WITHOUT the google apps, and there are plenty of alternatives to all of the google apps.

      Microsoft got in trouble for forcing you to have the integrated IE. You could not get rid of it, and it was the default browser.

      Go read something damnit, your ignorance is showing.
  • Microsoft should know all about this since they did the same thing when they packaged IE with Windows. The EC ruled that Microsoft had to provide the user with an option to use a different browser when the user first logs in to the OS. However, Microsoft was a convicted monopolist in the OS market which was the basis for that decision. So is Microsoft trying to claim that Google has a monopoly on the mobile OS market? That would be a hard sell since there's still iOS, BB10, and Windows Phone. It sounds
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      The reason for people picking Android is because they can get the apps they like for it without too much fuzz and if they can't they can just make it themselves or hire someone to do it.

      Android is a bit like MS-Dos was in the beginning - everyone had it, no big mess around to get something running on it. Of course - the downside is the risk for malware, which appears to be one of the problems Android is seeing these days.

      But the reason why the other companies complains is that their business model isn't as

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      It's about being dominant in multiple fields. Not only in the mobile OS field.

      MS got into trouble because their market share on the desktop was high AND IE was the dominant browser. Same player, dominance in multiple fields. Yeah, MS has a point.

      May $deity have mercy on our incorporeal bits.
  • I've noticed a common thread in the triumvirate of Nokia, Orrible, and Microsoft: none of them has released a smartphone worth a damn since Android came out (Orrible has never released a viable smartphone at all, which is quite stupid given that they could have a nice vertically integrated phone with almost no investment that they're not already making). I guess we have the answer to "why are they doing this?"

  • lets hope that the EU decide that users ought to be able to install which ever operating system they want on a phone.

    if microsoft can make a good phone OS then i am sure plenty of people will want to install it on their nexus 4. likewise i would not mind lumia running tizen, qtmoko or android. everybody wins when you remove lock-in from a market (and by everyone i mean consumers and companies that make good products).

    • You might run into the old Linux problem. It's hard to port proprietary drivers if the proprietor isn't willing to cooperate. That was a real killer for a long time. Drivers defeated many a hopeful Linux user. Drivers defeated me, several times, before I finally got a working installation. Thankfully, that problem is less pervasive today, but it could be recreated in the Mobile Market.

      • by ssam (2723487)

        I wonder if the EU could push some legal requirement for hardware specs to make it possible. i guess unlikely.

  • Yeah, because Apple is exactly the opposite.
    • Yeah, because Apple is exactly the opposite.

      Apple doesn't license iOS to other hardware partners, so it really is the opposite.

      If HTC could make an iOS device, but they couldn't install a competing product to buy music/movies, it would be similar.

  • Bill: "They don't even charge for this.. this ANDROID.. They give it away! For Free! You know, to get a foothold in the market so nobody will ever switch away from it. This is just... strongarming"

    Nokia: "Besides, they have this great OS but really, really crappy hardware. It's not even a 16MP camera!! It's an abomination I tell you. Remember the N800? Now there was ...."

    Larry: "What's needed is some legislation to regulate licensing on the Android OS. What I propose is we charge by number of cpu core the

  • ... may derive from the popular hew and cry about Android being "fragmented". Of course, this might open the door for Microsoft to plead, in the future, that their offerings are schizophrenic.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:51AM (#43401337)

    Windows was the thing people had to have, the non-free monopoly-like thing (I was never fully comfortable calling them a monopoly, but the courts disagreed, so whatever). And they gave away an application, MSIE, hoping people would use it to establish new legacies that required it, so they wouldn't be able to switch to standard browsers and MSIE's underlying OS would continue to be required.

    The situation here is inverted. Android is the thing nobody really cares about; people they can take it or leave it, or even fork it and compete with Google if they want. But the applications, primarily Google Maps but also (this makes very little sense to me) Youtube and Google Play (seriously, at least we're going to admit these are relatively minor factors, I hope) are the proprietary stuff that Google is taking a hard line on. Google's applications correspond to Microsoft's 1990s OS, and Google's OS corresponds Microsoft's 1990s application.

    The big difference, of course, is that nobody, I mean nobody has Google Maps as a dependency. You can throw every single bit of Android and every single Google application away, and not miss it very much, or at least not to the same degree that people suffered 20 years ago, where Windows APIs were required by a majority of "pop" software so lots of people had something they couldn't use without it. I'm not saying they're bad; most people (me included) think Google Maps is very nice. I'm just saying anyone who has the back-end data can fairly easily [*handwave*] build a map application, and if someone else does that, it's easy for users to switch.

    Ask any Android user if they're "locked in" to Android. Most of them will laugh. Maybe there really is some particular app which only has an Android version available, which they depend on every day and can't lose and is creating a network effect. I don't know. But I bet it's not a Google application.

    Google has lots of neat things for users, but not one single damn thing that a user needs, either directly or indirectly.

    BTW, I actually bought an Android 4 tablet which didn't come with the Google applications. It was no problem at all. So people who say an Android box needs this stuff, are totally full of shit. They're not merely wrong; they're liars. This is a non-story.

    Actually, my favorite part of TFA was the first sentence:

    A diverse group of companies including Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle..

    Looks like the usual suspects and mostly-nonproductive entities, hardly a "diverse group."

  • Isn't one of the known goals of capitalism to drive prices to free?

    • The myth that people can provide things for free is at the heart of communism - the reality that everything costs something is why all experiments with communism fail, usually with vast suffering involved by any that were not at the top of the pyramid.

      Capitalism in the pure form is a company charging a price that people are willing to pay, where on;y bad ideas go to free because no-one wants them. Good ideas people do in fact pay for.

  • It's not a Trojan Horse if you're doing it openly. Suck it up, buttercups.
  • by BenSchuarmer (922752) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @11:16AM (#43401701)
    OMG PONIES!!! Who doesn't like ponies?

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