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The day the irony detectors died...
April 9, 2013 5:27 AM   Subscribe

Fairsearch (a group led by Microsoft, Oracle and Expedia) has filed a complaint [PDF] with the EU claiming that Google has a monopoly in the mobile market and is using its mobile position to force its other products on users.
posted by sodium lights the horizon (53 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Remember that Android is more popular than iPhone in Europe too. In some countries (Spain), it's very, very dominant.
posted by smackfu at 5:37 AM on April 9, 2013


If the legal profession wants to make some seriously big bucks, they should invent time travel. Then IBM 1985 could sue Google 2013 while Google 2003 sued Microsoft 1997 and so forth.
posted by DU at 5:40 AM on April 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


smackfu: Despite the misleading press release headline, the argument isn't being made that Android itself is the issue; the counter argument that if you don't want Google's closed source products you can download the Android source and do what you wish would to be somewhat hard to refute, I would imagine.

The argument is that using some of Google's closed source apps requires installation of others in the preload. That might or might not be true, but it does mean that the argument has to be made that it is the Play store that is a monopoly rather than the OS itself.

That is somewhat problematic given that licencees are free to install their own app stores, and indeed Amazon already have.
posted by jaduncan at 5:42 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd rather be reading the actual complaint, if someone has a link to that.
posted by jaduncan at 5:43 AM on April 9, 2013


Microsoft's astroturfing campaign is disgusting. Oracle is terrible all around, and Expedia is basically Microsoft's Frankenstein. Say what you want about Google, but I'll use Google over anybody that attempts to compete via litigation and regulatory pressure rather than innovation (and as somebody who is reasonably well-informed about antitrust and competition law, most of these efforts seem like bullshit). How's that Metro UI working out for you, Steve?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:46 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd rather be reading the actual complaint, if someone has a link to that.

I did search for it, but FairSearch don't seem to have released it, and it looks like the EU Antitrust commission doesn't list complaints, but cases.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:49 AM on April 9, 2013


I'll use Google over anybody that attempts to compete via litigation and regulatory pressure rather than innovation

It's not to do with the service available to the consumer at a given moment in time. Governments have to ensure new entrants to markets else capitalism eats itself.
posted by colie at 5:51 AM on April 9, 2013


I can't see this flying. Google has been conspicuously good (compared to MS's history) at letting other service providers use its platform - not perfect, mind - and as the remedies applied to MS' far more aggressive monopoly moves were, basically, 'give the punters more choice, but not in a way that makes much difference' I'm not sure what MS and co think they'll get.

However, as a good way to showcase Microsoft's approach to market manipuation one mo' time, I suppose this is a good thing.

Arrant hypocrisy, though.
posted by Devonian at 5:55 AM on April 9, 2013


the counter argument that if you don't want Google's closed source products you can download the Android source and do what you wish would to be somewhat hard to refute, I would imagine.

One can 'do what one wants' with source code, true.

But without hardware to run that software on what good is it?

Now, when is the Judge in this case going to notice the locked bootloaders and force the unlocking of the bootloaders that way one can:

1) 'do what one wants with the sourcecode'
2) be able to remove the crapware on the cell phone

Because until bootloaders are unlocked on every Android phone and every network there really isn't the freedom being claimed is there?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:57 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Microsoft's biggest problem isn't Google, it's Windows Phone.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:59 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Edit: Microsoft's biggest problem is Windows. There - fixed.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:01 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


But without hardware to run that software on what good is it?

The OEMs are the customers here. The MS antitrust issues were premised on MS control of OEMs via licencing contracts.
posted by jaduncan at 6:01 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


An Irony Detector?

Oh, that's real useful
posted by DigDoug at 6:04 AM on April 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


So wait, they're going after the anti-fragmentation agreement?
posted by aramaic at 6:06 AM on April 9, 2013


FairSearch don't seem to have released it

I'm unsurprised. If I put my cynical EU lawyer hat on, I have to think that absent a request from Almunia's office for a complaint to act on this is just throwing mud at the wall. Unfortunately for FS, Almunia might not be Steely Neelie but he's still not that easy to push around with the complaints that didn't even make the initial cut.
posted by jaduncan at 6:07 AM on April 9, 2013


I'll use Google over anybody that attempts to compete via litigation and regulatory pressure rather than innovation

Don't worry, Google's now big enough to do the same and they've started to. It's sort of inevitable once you go public and have pressure from shareholders.
posted by yerfatma at 6:20 AM on April 9, 2013


Google's public shareholders are fairly powerless.
posted by ryanrs at 6:26 AM on April 9, 2013


It's not to do with the service available to the consumer at a given moment in time. Governments have to ensure new entrants to markets else capitalism eats itself.

And if anyone had ever publicized a solid fundamental antitrust analysis of the situation, I might have some concerns. As it stands, we see a lot of complaining from competitors who frankly create shitty products that few people want and don't bother to accompany their complaints with any sort of economic inquiry.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:37 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


rough ashlar: "Because until bootloaders are unlocked on every Android phone and every network there really isn't the freedom being claimed is there?"

Android lets you do an awful lot without unlocking the bootloader. Replacing Google applications with Microsoft applications should be extremely trivial.
posted by schmod at 6:41 AM on April 9, 2013


Because until bootloaders are unlocked on every Android phone and every network there really isn't the freedom being claimed is there?

Then go after those who create the bootloaders, which isn't Google.
posted by juiceCake at 6:46 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Say what you want about Google, but I'll use Google over anybody that attempts to compete via litigation and regulatory pressure rather than innovation

Yeah, Google would never use regulators that way.
posted by Slothrup at 6:48 AM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


EU just needs the same vendors that USA has to force a product on users
posted by ijoyner at 7:15 AM on April 9, 2013


Android lets you do an awful lot without unlocking the bootloader. Replacing Google applications with Microsoft applications should be extremely trivial.

The question is OEM rather than end user freedoms though. Nokia (for example) will probably make some claim that they'd love to produce Nokia Maps for Android, but can't because of the alleged requirement for Maps to be the most prominent mapping solution if installed. I don't think there's even a hint of a claim that users don't have freedom in the Play store, it's just the default apps.

Based on that press release, they are essentially trying to recreate the IE bundling issue.
posted by jaduncan at 7:20 AM on April 9, 2013


Wow - Fairsearch.org really reminds me of something a SuperPAC would put together... The order of doublespeak and attempts to engage emotional outrage are impressive.

I'm convinced that given enough time and effort, any political campaign (which is basically what this is) will be impossible to differentiate from the onion... See their "fact sheet" for some great examples (PDF which loads with a title of "powerpoint presentation", heh)

Big LOL at "ACQUISITIONS OF COMPETITIVE THREATS" being listed as a problem given who put this together

Another big LOL:

When people are doing searches for maps or directions for the city of New York, Google Maps comes up as the first search result in the organic (not the paid ads) listings," "[MapQuest GM Christian] Dwyer said.

Now go search bing for "maps"
posted by MysticMCJ at 7:22 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


An Irony Detector? Oh, that's real useful.

Your sarcasm selector is broken.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:20 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Remember that Android is more popular than iPhone in Europe too.

Android is more popular than IOS everywhere. IOS is a small player in the cell market. Always has been.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:23 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I actually just searched for "Directions to New York City" in both Bing and Google and noticed the first web result for both is mapquest.com.

The only difference I noticed is Google shows an actual map showing directions from my current ISP location to NYC alongside results. Bing, meanwhile, has few ads and then a big honking sidebar showing "Social Results" that include my facebook friends (who aren't talking about New York) and a bunch of random* posts from Quora from people who I don't know.

Regarding "Search Manipulation:" I'm no Google cheerleader but haven't previous cases already decided that Google search results are Google's product, and Google can deliver whatever product it wants by whatever algorithm it chooses and it's up to the consumer to decide if it likes the results or not? Because when it comes to maps and a search function that anticipates what I *actually* want (hint: not Quora) the fact that I use Google 99% of the time has nothing to do with search manipulation.

*(Sorry for contributing to the dilution of the meaning of the word random)
posted by midmarch snowman at 8:23 AM on April 9, 2013


Android is more popular than IOS everywhere. IOS is a small player in the cell market. Always has been.

Yeah, but no one's going to accuse Android of having any kind of smart phone monopoly in the US.
posted by smackfu at 8:44 AM on April 9, 2013


But without hardware to run that software on what good is it?

Well, remember that Android is a mostly-open platform, and that a locked bootloader is not at all necessary. If, in fact, you want a phone that has a replaceable bootloader, and is deliberately rootable out of the box.... you buy it from Google.

Google's actual, official phone is the best phone to buy if you want to avoid Google's clutches! In general, it's just the best phone, allowing you to do whatever the hell you want with the hardware you've bought, and it's an enduring mystery to me why more people don't buy it.

Google is so careful about being fair, by and large, that I don't see this complaint going anywhere. They're far from my favorite company, but while I don't like their business model, it's hard to criticize them for being predatory.
posted by Malor at 8:45 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


OHA position:
"Because the Apache license does not have a copyleft clause, industry players can add proprietary functionality to their products based on Android without needing to contribute anything back to the platform. As the entire platform is open, companies can remove functionality if they choose. Applications are not set in stone, and differentiation is always possible. For example, if you want to include Hotmail instead of Gmail, it will not be an issue."
The more I poke the more this complaint looks like junk.
posted by jaduncan at 9:23 AM on April 9, 2013


So it's not the anti-fragmentation agreement they're after, but rather the Google Apps agreement instead (where you can't get access to Play unless you install all of the official apps as well?)

...argh, it would be so much easier if the actual complaint were public. My head hurts.
posted by aramaic at 9:32 AM on April 9, 2013


I'm convinced that given enough time and effort, any political campaign (which is basically what this is) will be impossible to differentiate from the onion

Call it "The Fairsley Difference" effect.
posted by yerfatma at 9:32 AM on April 9, 2013


So it's not the anti-fragmentation agreement they're after, but rather the Google Apps agreement instead (where you can't get access to Play unless you install all of the official apps as well?)

Yes, apparently so. From the press release:
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 complaint says. This disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today.
The OHA statement that you can remove functionality as an OEM if you wish ("differentiation is always possible. For example, if you want to include Hotmail instead of Gmail, it will not be an issue.") is in direct contradiction to this, so one party must be wrong. I'm going to guess the OHA aren't actually making false statements to OEMs here.
posted by jaduncan at 9:37 AM on April 9, 2013


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 complaint says.
'Must-have' is a stretch. They're only 'must-have' because the OEMs don't have a compelling set of products of their own to offer. Microsoft could easily make an android phone and roll in Bing maps and any other Microsoft products they like and try to sell it. Same goes for Nokia (and if Windows Phone continues its death spiral I wouldn't be surprised if they did). Amazon has already done this in the tablet space.
posted by mullingitover at 10:38 AM on April 9, 2013


Microsoft's problem is simple.

All they have to do is deliver a product that works in a way and in a style that people really, really want.

*crickets chirping*
posted by markkraft at 10:40 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


All they have to do is deliver a product that works in a way and in a style that people really, really want.

VisualStudio, SQL Server Studio, etc. I cry no tears for Microsoft, but it's not like they've never built anything worthwhile. Their dev tools and the ecosystem that enabled a bunch of really shitty coders to crank out (semi-) working applications is impressive. They're just not so great on the user-facing stuff, but other than Apple, who is? Gmail's terrific, but what other consumer-facing product (I'd argue Search isn't a product but more of an API that enables . . . well, the Internet) has Google built from the ground up that's best-of-breed?
posted by yerfatma at 11:17 AM on April 9, 2013


Google built from the ground up that's best-of-breed?

Maps.
posted by jaduncan at 11:46 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


yerfatma: "What other consumer-facing product [...] has Google built from the ground up that's best-of-breed?"

Maps, yes. And per the FPP, Android: Pretty hard to argue this isn't their biggest win that was developed in-house.

They have done well with a lot of acquisitions (Picasa, for example; it is still our choice for image management even though as Mac users my wife and I have iPhoto sitting there, untouched).
posted by caution live frogs at 11:49 AM on April 9, 2013


Also (wince inducingly) Reader.
posted by jaduncan at 12:09 PM on April 9, 2013


If, in fact, you want a phone that has a replaceable bootloader, and is deliberately rootable out of the box.... you buy it from Google.

And this Google phone - it does CMDA and works on Sprint/Ting?

What other consumer-facing product [...] has Google built from the ground up that's best-of-breed?"
Maps, yes. And per the FPP, Android:


Android is based off of GN/Linux - so its not 'from the ground up'. My memory is maps was an acquisition.

And while Hotmail has been mentioned in #126842 - that isn't a Microsoft creation. It was from a group that used FreeBSD as the backend.

At what point in a toolchain is the end result 'yours'?

Does adding crypto and holding the key to the bootloader make it yours?
posted by rough ashlar at 12:31 PM on April 9, 2013


Android is based off of GNU/Linux - so its not 'from the ground up'.

It is from the ground up in exactly as much as one would or wouldn't consider a web app coded from the ground up because it ran on an existing kernel and web server. Everything inside the VM was their project (as were quite a few kernel modifications that are only now coming back to mainline).
posted by jaduncan at 12:40 PM on April 9, 2013


And this Google phone - it does CMDA and works on Sprint/Ting?

The Galaxy Nexus does, although you can't buy it from Google directly since the Nexus 4 came out, and you have to get a special version (codenamed toroplus) designed for use with Sprint's network. IIRC it will be officially supported for at least one more major iteration (i.e., Key Lime Pie or whatever) of Android, and probably further via AOSP builds.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:59 PM on April 9, 2013


Yeah, Google would never use regulators that way.

The interesting thing about your examples is that they highlight the difference between the behavior of Typical Resting-on-its-Laurels Tech Company and Typical Innovative Tech Company, rather than consigning the distinction to the murky false equivalence often favored by people who don't care to distinguish between the offensive use of IP, privacy, and antitrust proceedings and the defensive use of the same.

Asking a regulator to enforce the most infamous bundling settlement and/or one the most expensive anti-monopoly decrees in recent history is hardly equivalent to the relentless astroturfing and other bad faith conduct that has shaped Microsoft's recent approach to Google's products.

Does anyone seriously contend that a browser ballot or "N" version of the world's dominant operating system impairs innovation? By contrast, attempting to litigate an emerging platform (an open source platform, at that) out of existence is the definition of behavior aimed at preventing innovation (to say nothing of Microsoft's other campaigns aimed at Google).

For other recent examples of similar bad behavior, see: Oracle vs. Google. Apple's insistence that Amazon is the problem in the ebook market while Apple operated a classic cartel, Yahoo v. Facebook, and Alcatel-Lucent v. Apple/LG.

If we can't get the nonsense regulatory wars to stop, an end to the astroturfing would be welcome.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:08 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's an article from 2010 on Microsoft trying to astroturf up antitrust cases against Google. And this is from 2011 when Facebook hired a PR firm to try to smear them. I know a lot of people here genuinely don't like Google, but it's hard to imagine that there isn't an awful lot of astroturfing going on on the web at the moment.
posted by markr at 3:44 AM on April 10, 2013


I can sort of empathize with Microsoft here. It reminds me of when I worked at a large fast food chain, and the health inspectors were real dicks to us. Like "oh, this shelf with the fax machine on it in the back office isn't NSF approved. Violation!" When we asked what their problem was, they said "you are the big guys, we hold you to higher standards."

If Microsoft is going to get punished for some kind of behavior, then I can totally understand why they would be pissed off if someone else was doing the exact same thing.
posted by gjc at 8:14 AM on April 10, 2013


If Microsoft is going to get punished for some kind of behavior, then I can totally understand why they would be pissed off if someone else was doing the exact same thing.

If anyone else had done or was doing what Microsoft did, I'd be right there with you.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:38 AM on April 10, 2013


Just caught up with this thread and I find the casual claims made against Windows Phone to be rather interesting, if misguided. For one, their market share is going up globally, very slightly - still, it's hard to describe an increase in market share as a "continued death spiral."

And in terms of style and features, I switched from a Galaxy SII to a Windows Phone back around Win Phone 7, and now have a Lumia 920, and I infinitely prefer the windows phone design. The social integration for networks besides G+ is fantastic, as is the Office integration. The Calendar integration works better on my windows phone (using multiple google calendars) than it did on my Galaxy, or at least it did until Google stopped supporting the Exchange format. Overall I get more information more quickly, and that makes my phone an actual productivity device, which is something I hadn't felt about any of my previous smart phones.

So I wonder how many of the random WP bashers have actually tried using one, and what the basis of their dismissal is. Anyone want to share?
posted by hank_14 at 4:22 PM on April 10, 2013


Inspector.Gadget, the parallel I don't understand isn't Android/Google, it's Apple. How the iTunes interface requirement can be deemed legal given that merely linking Windows 95 and IE was monopolist is something I haven't quite wrapped my head around.
posted by hank_14 at 4:23 PM on April 10, 2013


per the FPP, Android: Pretty hard to argue this isn't their biggest win that was developed in-house.

By that standard, they've got a ways to go to compare with Windows. Both of those are platforms though, not products (though you can buy Windows as a boxed item).
posted by yerfatma at 4:26 PM on April 10, 2013


So I wonder how many of the random WP bashers have actually tried using one, and what the basis of their dismissal is. Anyone want to share?

By the same token, Android has changed enormously since 2.3 on your Galaxy SII to 4.2 on modern hardware.

For what it's worth I used WP7 for a week shortly after it was released and my main complaints were that it was locked down in the same way as iOS but without the benefit of a thriving app environment. It was (for me) the worst of both worlds. Since then the app store has presumably improved but the fundamental philosophy of the platform (single curated app store) isn't right (again, for me personally).
posted by markr at 4:53 PM on April 10, 2013


Makes sense, markr, and thanks. As someone who wrote their diss using Open Office 1.x and who ran Ubuntu as my only OS for six years (pre-Unity), I completely understand the objection to a closed, curated app environment. I'm quite intrigued by the Ubuntu mobile, as well. But in terms of actually using my phone to do things, I've been pleasantly surprised by how effective Windows phone is in practice. In theory, though, I'm sympathetic to the objection.

I looked at the Note II when it came out and was interested, but the few folks I know who had the first Notes didn't do much with it that I thought of as really helpful, for me at least, so I stayed with WP.
posted by hank_14 at 5:16 PM on April 10, 2013


My father actually bought a Windows Phone recently, and I originally added it to the list of failures he's bought (Apple IIgs, Betamax, Almost Divx except I was old enough to convince him not to) but once I saw it, it's actually really nice. It's too bad the app support is so marginal compared to Android or iOS.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:17 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


How the iTunes interface requirement can be deemed legal given that merely linking Windows 95 and IE was monopolist is something I haven't quite wrapped my head around.

Well, I'm not sure it has been "deemed legal" - in any event it has not received a stamp of approval from all competition regulators worldwide (not that such regulators are in the business of proactively approving bundling/interoperability schemes). My sense is that the highest-profile anticompetitive behavior coming from Apple is problematic regardless of market power (see ebook cartel) so it is easiest for regulators to focus on that; Apple's vertical integration / platform lockdown behavior may require a more thorough market power analysis and naturally takes a backseat to the obvious anticompetitive moves.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:09 AM on April 11, 2013


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