The Wall Street Journal has published a new report in which it claims that there are some major “strings attached” for manufacturers when it comes to using Android. According to documents obtained by the publication, Google has imposed strict regulations on companies that wish to have access to YouTube or the Play Store on their devices. The documents show that in order to receive access to those services, companies are forced to feature other Google apps and set Google search as the default search engine on the device.
Companies wishing to gain access to Google services are forced to sign a “Mobile Application Distribution Agreement” with Google. Both HTC and Samsung have signed such agreements, which force them to preinstall twelve Google apps on any device they release. Other details of the agreement include placing the Search and Play Store apps “immediately adjacent” to the homescreen, and that Google apps appear no more than one screen away. Samsung and Google also recently signed a deal to license each other’s patents for the next 10 years.
The report goes onto claim that European antitrust authorities are investigating these claims to see whether Google has taken advantage of its leading position. In Europe, countries are required to promote competition, and apparently with Google’s practices, the company is being accused of not doing that. There’s no such rule in the United States, which means that it would be difficult to prove that Google has violated any antitrust rules. Google just recently settled an anti-trust case in the European Union, in which it agreed to give equal prominence to its competitors’ services.
All of these restrictions seem rather reasonable, especially when compared to some of the restrictions Apple places on developers. It’s also very important to note that just because manufacturers don’t agree to these terms doesn’t mean they can’t use Android. Amazon does not use the Play Store or preinstall any Google apps on its devices, but it still uses Android as the base operating system on its Kindle Fire devices, albeit heavily skinned. A report last month claimed that Google was charging licensing fees for Google mobile services, but we disproved that and noted how Android is open to anyone.
Google claims that Android is an “open” operating system, and none of these allegations seem to prove otherwise. Just because there are some restrictions to use Google apps doesn’t mean the Android operating system as a whole is open and available to everyone and it seems obvious that the company would want manufactures to use its services.