Google in Korea’s sights as Samsung moans about Android

Google has been tangled up in another anti-competition case after allegedly impeding Samsung’s development of its own OS, according to reports in Korea.

The Korea Times suggests the case focuses around a couple of agreements between Samsung and Google which introduced basic rules and service levels for devices running Android. Supposedly, the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement in 2011 saw both parties agree that a bunch of Google services would be pre-loaded on to devices running Andoid – such as Chrome for the default browser, YouTube, Google Play and Gmail. Back in the day these bits of software would have been considered bloatware if they weren’t actually pretty good.

Now, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) of Korea reckons Google is being a bit naughty again, even though this case and one other have been settled in recent years. The other case in question relates to an agreement known as the Anti-Fragmentation Agreement (AFA), in which both Google and Samsung agreed that the latter is prohibited from creating a proprietary operating system of its own by using code belonging to the former.

An FTC official has said it is reopening investigations into AFA, suggesting that it is impeding Samsung’s development of its own OS. Now, it’s not for us to say that there might be a little bit of compatriot protection going on from the Korean FTC; but it wouldn’t at all be surprising if it is looking for ways in which to give Samsung more of a hand against the Californian juggernaut.

Samsung has made no secret of its desire to push forward with Tizen, its proprietary OS, and has done so on its TVs and wearable range. But given that a significant percentage of Android’s install base comes from Samsung devices, it makes total sense that Google wants to protect that. On the face of things, it looks like Samsung and Google both willingly entered negotiations and commonly agreed upon a framework which prevents the consumer electronics giant from eating up Google market share with some form of Android rip off.

Tizen is merely a manifestation of Samsung’s desperation to differentiate its smartphones from the rest of the Android crowd in a more significant way than mere brute marketing spend. The Note7 battery disaster was a consequence of this desperation and now it seems to have found an ally in its domestic trade regulators. The desired outcome for Samsung, presumably, would be a greater capacity to customise the user experience of its Android devices and supercede Google services with its own.

You’d think it would be relatively open/shut, especially as the case has already been closed once before in Google’s favour. But in the crazy, crazy world of international technology regulation, who knows what could possibly happen next?

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