At least that is the opinion of lawyers mounting a class action against Google.
Google requires Samsung, HTC, and all other mobile device makers that use the Android operating system to reserve prime screen real estate for the search giant’s own applications. Device makers must allegedly include all of the following applications: Set-up Wizard, Google Phone-top Search, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, YouTube, Google Maps for Mobile, Google Street View, Contact Sync, Android Market Client (not products downloaded from Android Market), Google Voice Search, and Network Location Provider.
The theory of the case is that Google requires any device maker who wants to include popular apps for YouTube and Google Play to include Google as the default search tool — this, in turn, means that the device makers cannot accept financial enticements from other companies like Microsoft to default to Bing search instead. As a result, the Android devices cost users more and search innovation is stagnating.
The lawsuit also claims that Google pays Apple “hundreds of millions if not billions” for default search engine status on the iPhone as part of its larger effort to maintain its illegal “tying” arrangements.
Google naturally disputed the claims. “Anyone can use Android without Google and anyone can use Google without Android. Since Android’s introduction, greater competition in smartphones has given consumers more choices at lower prices.”
A copy of the class action is here. It is interesting to note that the lawyers are the same as recently proved Apple was manipulating the eBook market.
Following are some extracts from the HTC MADA
To distribute Google’s mobile applications—Google Search, Maps, YouTube, Calendar, Gmail, Talk, the Play app store, and more—a phone manufacturer needs a license from Google, called a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA). Key provisions of the MADA:
- “Devices may only be distributed if all Google Applications [listed elsewhere in the agreement] … are pre-installed on the Device.”
- The phone manufacturer must “preload all Google Applications approved in the applicable Territory … on each device.”
- The phone manufacturer must place “Google’s Search and the Android Market Client icon [Google Play] … at least on the panel immediately adjacent to the Default Home Screen,” with “all other Google Applications … no more than one level below the Phone Top.”
- The phone manufacturer must set “Google Search … as the default search provider for all Web search access points.”
- Google’s Network Location Provider service must be preloaded and the default.
Google’s mantra is “Don’t be evil.” Commentators popularly believe that Google is redefining the word evil and there is a subtle difference between its mantra and “Do no evil.”
The class action states the obvious – Google has long been a monopolist in US general Internet PC search, and the phrase “Google it” et al has become synonymous with search. I say good on Google for having the marketing savvy to make it so.
By virtue of Androids rise – due mainly to Samsung – Google also dominates mobile search. Google develops Android and allows its free use so it is entitled to some return via obliging Android smartphone makers to include its apps – except in China where Google is non grata. MADA however enforces Google as the only default search engine. No wonder Samsung is strongly rumoured to be investigiating using Tizen instead.
Google’s VP Jonathan Rosenberg comments certainly point to a desire to create a self-fulfilling monopoly “So more users more information, more information more users, more advertisers more users, it’s a beautiful thing, lather, rinse, repeat, that’s what I do for a living. So that’s what someone alluded to the engine that can’t be stopped.”