Google and Europe continue passive-aggressive antitrust argument

Google has hit back at the European Commission’s accusation the Android team used its influence to strangle competition in the not-so-congested operating system segment.

Back in April, the European Commission came to the conclusion Google had abused its position as the dominant player in the OS market space to force handset manufacturers to preinstall Google services, which could be seen as a move to lock-out competitors. Google denied the nefarious activities from the outset, unsurprising considering the fine could be as much as $7.4 billion, though the case it put forward today outlines how the team plan to fight the antitrust case.

“Android has unleashed a new generation of innovation and inter-platform competition,” said Kent Walker, Google’s General Counsel on the official blog. “By any measure, it is the most open, flexible, and differentiated of the mobile computing platforms.

“But open-source platforms are fragile. They survive and grow by balancing the needs of all participants, including users and developers. The Commission’s approach would upset this balance, and send an unintended signal favouring closed over open platforms.

“It would mean less innovation, less choice, less competition, and higher prices. That wouldn’t be just a bad outcome for us. It would be a bad outcome for developers, for phone makers and carriers, and, most critically, for consumers. That’s the case we are making to the Commission in our filing.”

Google’s reply to the antitrust case falls on four points. Firstly, the European Commission’s claim sit on the idea Android doesn’t compete with Apple’s iOS. The team oppose this claim, and go as far as to state Apple would probably disagree as well. It seems a little bit of a silly point to make from the European Commission considering 89% of respondents from its own research believe Android and Apple compete. Point to Google.

Secondly, while competition breeds success Google also believes consistency is an important factor. If developers are to succeed in bringing new applications to market, there does need to be consistency, but standardization across various OS platforms will achieve this. The Google team seem to breeze across this point, pointing out developers are successful because there are only a couple of platforms to choose from. Kind of defeats the point of competition which it claims is so important in the first point.

If consistency is the overall objective, why not just make Android a monopoly and do away with competition completely? Point to the European Commission.

Next is the focus on preinstalled apps, which the European Commission believes limits competition. Google claims no manufacturer is obliged to preinstall apps on devices, though does suspect the manufacturers are ‘encouraged’ to do so. Apple and Windows phones also do this, though two wrongs do not make a right, and why is Google bringing Microsoft into the argument? Kind of cruel and rubbing salt into the wounds of the fallen smartphone pretender.

Users have the option to remove Google apps and download competitors, and according to the team this is done quite a lot. The European Commission is not on strong footing here, almost every company in the world which sells products and services will preload its own software/apps/features for the user, who can then choose whether to use them or not.

The users are adults (mostly) and can make their own decisions, and few will complain the time consuming task of downloading apps on a new phone is taken out of their hands. Point to Google.

Finally, distributing products like Google Search together with Google Play permits the team to offer the entire suite for free. Sounds very nice, but ultimately Google will make a huge amount of cash off the back of the usage as well. This does smell a little bit of anti-competition as Google does make out like bandits with the added on services or advertising revenues etc. The internet giant is a giant for a reason, but it does remove costs for the user. Draw.

Google is seemingly a victim of its own success here, though the European Commission does make a few good points. Ultimately with the toing and froing with appeals, counter-appeals and negotiations, this case is likely to go on for some time, but some in the industry might be happy to see Google isn’t getting everything its own way.

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