What is going on with Google?
It was reported this week that Fairsearch, an organisation whose 17 members include Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle, had filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission. The complaint alleges that Google has abused Android's dominant position in smartphone operating systems, by giving away the Android mobile operating system to device manufacturers (a 'Trojan Horse') on condition that its applications such as Google Maps and YouTube are prominently displayed on devices. Android mobile software is installed on about 70% of new smartphones, making it the dominant mobile software platform around the world.
The Fairsearch complaint has been lodged just as Google potentially brings an end to the investigation launched by the European Commission in November 2010. Google has this week offered to the European Commission remedies to address concerns including the following:
- the ranking of rival services in search results
- the copying of content from other sites
- exclusive advertising arrangements, and
- restrictions on porting advertising campaigns to other platforms.
The remedies offered by Google in connection with the November 2010 investigation will now be market-tested and if found to be acceptable, they will be translated into binding commitments.
The complaint by Fairsearch is the latest skirmish in ongoing competition and intellectual property battles in the technology (and life sciences) sectors. Over the years, Microsoft has used several groups to try to urge the Commission to investigate its rivals' business practices, including the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (ICOMP) and the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT). Microsoft has itself also been on the receiving end of complaints. The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which includes Google as a member, was actively involved in the Commission's antitrust case against Microsoft that ended in 2007 and cost the company approximately €1.7 billion in fines.