Google being investigated for antitrust complaints in the United States


You thought the buck stopped for Google’s antitrust struggles in Europe? Nope — now they have to deal with it in their own backyard. Bloomberg reports that the FTC has started a probing investigation into Google regarding Android.

The investigation is said to focus on Google’s bundling of their own apps in Android, as well as the agreements in place that force manufacturers to pre-install Google apps if they want access to Google Play and Google Play Services.

Google logo skateboard

To be clear, there are no allegations or charges being thrown around here, nor is there any clear idea of what the investigation is specifically targeting. It’s still in the “very early stages,” apparently, and the FTC — who worked with the Justice Department to begin the investigation — are looking to  keep it under tight wraps for now.

Many are quick to compare this situation to that of Microsoft’s Windows. If you don’t remember, Microsoft not only used to opt to include their own web browser in Windows, but also forbade laptop makers from pre-installing competing browsers alongside it.

For Google’s part, they’re not blocking OEMs from pre-installing anything. They’re just as free to put competing services and apps on their devices. I’m pretty sure Dropbox was on my latest Android phone alongside Google Drive. I’m pretty sure tons of OEM and Carrier-approved bloatware is sitting alongside those Google services. That’s not to say this is where the investigation is going exactly, but it’s sure to be a talking point as things move on.

Another issue is whether Google has the rights to force bundling apps at all, which is a more tricky situation. On the one hand, Android is free to download and use without any closed license whatsoever. On the other hand, the bulk of Android’s utility comes from Google Play Services, and if OEMs want that utility then they’re forced to load up whichever other apps Google wants them to.

But one thing Google absolutely hasn’t done — to our knowledge — is block competition. We’ll have to see which exact issues the FTC chooses to key in on once the investigation matures.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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