Android's A 'Trojan Horse,' Microsoft-Backed Group Charges - InformationWeek

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4/9/2013
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Android's A 'Trojan Horse,' Microsoft-Backed Group Charges

FairSearch.org says Google's decision to offer Android at no cost represents predatory pricing.

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The European Commission, already investigating whether Google's search business practices violate antitrust laws, has been asked to look into the company's Android mobile operating system.

FairSearch.org, a lobbying group backed by Microsoft, Nokia, Oracle, and online travel and marketing companies, on Tuesday filed a complaint with the European Commission about Google's "anti-competitive strategy to dominate the mobile marketplace and cement its control over consumer Internet data for online advertising as usage shifts to mobile."

Thomas Vinje, attorney for the FairSearch.org coalition, said in a statement that Google is using its Android operating system as a "'Trojan Horse' to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace and control consumer data."

The group contends Google, by providing Android at no cost, is engaged in predatory pricing.

[ What's the point of government compliance if it's indistinguishable from non-compliance? Read The Freedom From Information Act. ]

Google and Microsoft are the only two major mobile phone operating system makers that license their software to third-party hardware makers. Apple and BlackBerry keep their operating systems to themselves. A report last year suggested that Microsoft charged between $23 and $30 for a Windows 7 Phone license. Windows 8 Phone licenses are likely to be in a similar range.

Nonetheless, Microsoft gets paid patent licensing fees from many Android handset makers that amount to several dollars for every Android phone sold. In 2011, it was estimated that Microsoft made more money from Android than it did from Windows Phone.

FairSearch.org has been trying to derail Google since 2010 when the search company announced its intention to acquire ITA, a travel data software maker. That deal was ultimately allowed, though the U.S. Department of Justice imposed some conditions.

The group has also argued that Google's search business represents an illegal monopoly and it has opposed Google's proposed book scanning lawsuit settlement. To date, however, its desires have gone largely unfulfilled.

When the Federal Trade Commission said in January that it had resolved its 19-month antitrust investigation into Google's search business, the group complained that the absence of a substantive penalty from the FTC "will only embolden Google to act more aggressively to misuse its monopoly power to harm other innovators."

Microsoft on its own is also continuing to attack Google through its Scroogled.com ad campaign. The company ran an ad in Tuesday's New York Times that criticizes Google Play for sharing app buyers' personal information with app makers (something many app makers appreciate as a way to communicate with customers).

Asked to comment on FairSearch.org's accusations, a Google spokeswoman in an email said, "We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission."

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