The European Commission (EC) has three ongoing antitrust “complaints” against Google. One of the three involves Google’s Android operating system, its mobile market-share dominance and potentially improper “tying” of the Google Play store to a suite of pre-installed Google apps.
Google filed its response to the EC’s Statement of Objections last week, citing a number of arguments, which boil down to “if you got your way there would be unintended consequences” and “consumers and the ecosystem benefit from our practices.” Google published a version of its arguments in a blog post on the 10th Novermber, a summary of which is below…
The EC fails to recognize how competitive Apple’s iOS is with Android: “First, the Commission’s case is based on the idea that Android doesn’t compete with Apple’s iOS. We don’t see it that way . . . To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today’s competitive smartphone landscape.”
EC fails to appreciate the dangers of fragmentation: The EC’s “preliminary findings underestimate the importance of developers and the dangers of fragmentation in a mobile ecosystem . . . Android’s compatibility rules help minimize fragmentation and sustain a healthy ecosystem for developers . . . The Commission’s proposal risks making fragmentation worse, hurting the Android platform and mobile phone competition.”
Preloading of Google apps is optional and doesn’t harm consumers: “No manufacturer is obliged to preload any Google apps on an Android phone. But we do offer manufacturers a suite of apps so that when you buy a new phone you can access a familiar set of basic services . . . A consumer can swipe away any of our apps at any time. And, uniquely, hardware makers and carriers can pre-install rival apps right next to ours”
Preinstalled apps enable Google to offer services for free: “distributing products like Google Search together with Google Play permits us to offer our entire suite for free — as opposed to, for example, charging upfront licensing fees. This free distribution is an efficient solution for everyone — it lowers prices for phone makers and consumers, while still letting us sustain our substantial investment in Android and Play.”
EC’s approach would mean less innovation: “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.”
It’s unlikely that the EC will be persuaded by Google’s arguments and quite likely that it will impose a fine or require Google to abandon it’s pre-install requirements or both. If one or both of those scenarios happen Google has recourse to more than one appellate court.
…The case is far from over.