The EU is set to unveil formal anti-trust charges against Google regarding the way in which it markets its widely-used Android mobile phone operating system. When discussing an imminent antitrust case against Android, Brussels alluded to the European Commission’s confrontation with Microsoft a decade ago.
Margarethe Vestager, Competition Commissioner, highlighted her concerns that Google is unfairly taking advantage of consumers’ wish to have pre-installed apps before even purchasing a new smartphone. She argues that this could hinder innovation by preventing fledgling app makers from having a strong presence in the market. Ms Vestager stated: “Our concern is that, by requiring phone-makers and operators to preload a set of Google apps, rather than letting them decide for themselves which apps to load, Google might have cut off one of the main ways that new apps can reach customers”. She compared this to Brussels’ famous dispute with Microsoft, where “one of the concerns was the effect of innovation. If Microsoft’s media player was already there when you bought a PC, it would be hard to persuade people to even try an alternative. So innovators would be at a big disadvantage” she said.
Geoff Blaber, analyst at tech research group CCS Insight, says that Google will be concerned by an EU case against Android “because the vast majority of consumers’ daily interactions with web services is now coming from mobile”. Indeed, global smartphone sales are estimated to reach 1.5 billion units in 2016 as the sales of PCs plummet, according to the Gartner IT research company. Furthermore, statistics from Gartner show that Android was the operating system on more than 80 per cent of smartphones globally last year, as opposed to Apple’s iOS which accounted for approximately 13 per cent of the market. Consequently, any regulatory move against Android is highly sensitive. However, it should be noted that, under EU rules, such dominance is legal. Nonetheless, EU rules places special requirements upon Google to preserve competition.