According to a report yesterday from Reuters, which cited anonymous sources, European Union officials are now looking into whether the company is abusing its 80 percent market share for the Android mobile operating system by pushing its services on consumers.
After a nearly four-year investigation into Google’s search business, and with a new European Union antitrust chief coming aboard in the fall, the regulators appear to be intensifying their efforts with new, more detailed inquiries sent to the company seeking information about these kinds of issues.
“European consumers tend to be much more skeptical of big business than consumers in the U.S. market,” Parks Associates’ Director of Research Brett Sappington told VentureBeat. “[And] European regulators tend to take a more critical view of companies that are perceived to have a dominant position in the marketplace.”
But IDC Research Director Scott Shawn also sees another driver behind the European regulators’ ongoing suspicion of the American company: Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who released classified documents detailing NSA’s massive surveillance programs.
“Yes, [Google is showing] monopolistic characteristics,” he told us, but the Snowden/NSA factor “adds to what Android is all about.”
“The principal way Google collects information,” Shawn said, “is through Android,” and it’s an American company with ties to the NSA.
“It’s an underlying factor that causes people to ask more questions than they otherwise might.”
Shawn recalled that Microsoft “ran into similar issues when Windows was growing and [Internet Explorer] was a monopoly on the PC.” At the time, the U.S. Justice Department sued Microsoft, contending that it was using its desktop dominance to unfairly position its Internet Explorer browser.
Although it’s an open-source operating system that handset makers can adopt as they want, they are reportedly legally obligated by Google to pre-install a minimum number of the company’s services on any Android devices.
Whether or not that’s the case will be a key subject of any investigation. Google told Reuters that “anyone can use Android without Google, and anyone can use Google without Android.”