Microsoft, along with a few other Google competitors that dub themselves “FairSearch Europe,” has launched a new attack against Europe in the EU, accusing Google of abusing its position in the mobile market, forcing its own apps like YouTube and Google Maps onto Android handset manufacturers. Other companies in the anti-Google coalition include Nokia and Oracle.
According to the most recent numbers, Android currently controls 70% of the mobile smartphone market. The complaint says that the Android OS is a “trojan horse” that requires manufacturers “to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone.” However, there are several reasons why this complaint just doesn’t make much sense.
Google offers Android to manufacturers for free.
Android is an open source OS, which means that anyone can use it for free and modify it to fit their needs. Unlike Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which requires manufacturers to pay a licensing fee, Android doesn’t cost HTC, Samsung, LG, or anyone else one single penny. And because manufacturers can basically do whatever they want to Android’s code, we have a huge variety of different skins, like Sense, TouchWiz, Blur, and others. Android purists may not like this, but these skins can sometimes give the devices they’re on added value, and help manufacturers compete against one another. And competition is a good thing, right?
Additionally, no one is forcing the manufacturers to do anything. You have to make a distinction between proprietary apps and an open source OS. If manufacturers want to preinstall Google’s own apps – which are not open source – like Gmail, YouTube, or the Play Store, only then must the manufacturers agree to abide by some rules. And that seems fairly reasonable, given that Google has a brand to protect, Google makes its money only when people use these services and view ads, and Google is providing access to these apps free of charge.
However, if a manufacturer does not want to follow Google’s rules, they don’t have to. No one is forcing them to include Google’s apps – Amazon is doing just fine with the Kindle Fire line, for example, and Barnes and Noble doesn’t include the Play Store on its Nook tablets, either. Because of this, these companies have even more control over the devices they manufacture – and their products are still selling well.
Manufacturers get good returns when they follow Google’s rules.
Even though it’s possible to create a successful and popular Android device without access to Google’s apps, those who do include them are fairly successful. Look at how popular the Samsung Galaxy series has been, both with phones and tablets. HTC has had some fairly good hits, and even Motorola was successful before Google purchased it.
The point is this: Android manufacturers are not complaining about Google’s rules for the inclusion of Google apps, because they get good returns when using them. The devices sell. The manufacturers make a profit. Everyone wins.
Look at who the complainants are: Microsoft, Nokia, and Oracle – all companies that are threatened by the success of Google, not companies that actually produce their own Android devices. Isn’t it funny how they feel it’s appropriate to speak for the likes of Samsung, who is wildly successful and following Google’s rules?
Is Microsoft totally missing the irony here?
It took a huge anti-trust case in Europe for Microsoft to finally include a “choice” screen that easily allowed users to choose an alternate browser instead of Internet Explorer. Additionally, as a result of that case, computer manufacturers in Europe were finally able to turn off Internet Explorer completely on the units they sold, opting instead to use another browser by default. That’s something Android already allows anyone to do, by virtue of being open source. How ironic.
Basically, here’s what Microsoft is saying: Google can either have a globally successful OS, or it can have a complete set of extremely popular apps that offer unparalleled access to services that consumers demand – but it can’t have both. Perhaps Microsoft, Nokia, Oracle, and others should instead focus on what they are doing wrong, rather than trying to stifle the competition.