Google Mobile Services restrictions for OEMs once again coming under scrutiny

google

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.

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Google finally settles EU anti-trust case, agrees to give equal prominence to rival services

Photo: npr.org

Photo: npr.org

After more than three years of investigations and negotiations, Google and the European Union anti-trust authorities have finally settled the case in which the company was accused of abusing its dominant position in search.

The tl;dr version of the dispute was that Google search results were giving undue prominence to its own services – such as Google News and Google Shopping – and freezing out rivals. Google was eventually given a deadline of 31st January last year to submit proposals on how it would resolve the problem …  Read more

European anti-trust case against Google likely to end after fresh proposals

plenary

The European Union’s long-running anti-trust case against Google, in which the search company was accused of using its dominant position in search to stifle competition, looks set to finally be resolved – though we may have to wait until Spring to learn the details.

Reuters reports that Google has made new proposals, which the EU suggests is likely to lead to a settlement.

Joaquin Almunia told lawmakers in the European Parliament he believed the new offer made it easier to see Google’s rivals when making an internet search.

“We have reached a key moment in this case,” Almunia said.

“Now with the significant improvements on the table I think we have the possibility to work again.

“If our investigation of this improved proposal is satisfactory then we will continue the commitments route and end up with a formal decision next spring,” he said, adding: “I think that the settlement route remains the best choice” …  Read more

Report: Samsung says removal of Google’s universal search on UK Galaxy S III was ‘inadvertent’

The blogosphere recently swelled with speculation as to why Samsung removed Google’s universal search function from its premiere Galaxy SIII smartphone, but a new report today revealed the ousting was simply “inadvertent.”

AndroidCentral first revealed the problem: 

  • There’s a new over-the-air update rolling out for the international Samsung Galaxy S III (aka Galaxy S3 GT-i9300) this evening. The OTA message identifies it as a “stability update,” but what it also does is remove local (on-device) search functionality in the phone’s built-in Google Search app. The new version — XXBLG6 — is a relatively recent build, having been cooked just a few days ago on Jul. 20. A new baseband version, XXLG6, is also included, but we haven’t noticed any other changes thus far.
  • Following legal action by Apple, which temporarily resulted in the Galaxy Nexus being banned in the U.S., Samsung has taken to pre-emptively disabling the ability to search within on-device data (like contacts and applications) on some U.S. Galaxy S3′s. However, the decision to kill local search on the unlocked international model — which isn’t sold in the U.S. — is a little perplexing, not least because Apple has yet to challenge Sammy over local search in the EU or UK, where the GT-i9300 is sold.

Samsung just confirmed to TechRadar, however, that the removal of search functionality on the U.K. version of the Galaxy S III had nothing to do with a legal action by Apple. The mysterious occurrence, which stopped the ability to search for files, contacts, and apps through the built-in Google Search widget, was apparently unintentional.

According to Samsung:

“The most recent software upgrade for the Galaxy S III in the UK included the inadvertent removal of the universal search function. Samsung will provide the correct software upgrade within the next few days.”

A new update will roll out over the next few days to fix the problem.

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EU competition commissioner says he’ll settle antitrust investigation with Google

A European Union commissioner chief just gave Google “a matter of weeks” to settle allegations of competition-restricting activity that could help the search engine escape hefty fines and formal charges.

Joaquin Almunia, the European Union’s vice president of the European commission responsible for competition, announced today that he sent a letter to Google’s chairperson Eric Schmidt. The letter detailed the findings of an antitrust investigation into Google’s search practices, and it offered the search engine a chance to remedy its “abuses” by settling.

“I have just sent a letter to Eric Schmidt setting out these four points. In this letter, I offer Google the possibility to come up in a matter of weeks with first proposals of remedies to address each of these points,” said Alumnia.

The investigation found four areas, or points, where Google’s practices “may be considered as abuses of dominance,” such as: Google exhibits links to its own vertical search services; Google duplicates content from competing vertical search services; competition-restriction agreements between Google and partners on websites where Google provides search ads; and, restrictions that Google sets to the portability of ad campaigns from AdWords to other competitors’ platforms.

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EU greenlights Google’s Motorola acquisition, but continues monitoring ‘strategic use of patents’

As expected, the European Commission cleared Google’s $12.5 billion acquisition of handset maker Motorola Mobility following a short period of back and forth between the Internet giant and European regulators. A statement issued by the European Commission said the transaction was approved “mainly because it would not significantly modify the market situation in respect of operating systems and patents for these devices.”

The Justice Department should approve the transaction this week, if the Wall Street Journal is to be trusted. When it finally goes through (and that’s a when at this stage, not an if), Google will gain control of Motorola’s extensive patent portfolio and use it to deflect Android patent attacks by Apple, Oracle, and Microsoft. The Commission noted it would continue to keep a close eye on “the increasingly strategic use of patents.” As you know, Apple is pressuring European Union regulators to establish consistent royalty fees for patents deemed essential to wireless standards.

Google’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Don Harrison wrote on the official company blog that Google is now “just waiting for decisions from a few other jurisdictions before we can close this transaction.” He maintained the company line that the deal will “enhance competition and offer consumers faster innovation, greater choice and wonderful user experiences.”

Motorola reported an $80 million loss in the holiday quarter and shed 800 jobs. It is also embroiled in a nasty patent fight with Apple that saw the latter sue the former in the United States over Qualcomm patent license after Motorola won a brief injunction of 3G iPhone and iPad sales in Germany.

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