Top brass at Google won’t feel at ease at latest report that its Android contract is being scrutinized by Margarethe Vestager—European Commission’s antitrust commissioner. The commission is tightening its noose on the tech giant, and is beaming more searchlight on its mobile operating system.
Delivering a speech Monday at a conference held in the Netherlands, Vestager said the Commission is now “closely” monitoring the company’s contract with carriers and mobile manufacturers. The Commission’s concern is aimed at requirements Google places on its partners to have devices pre-installed with its apps. “Our concern is that, by requiring phone makers and operators to pre-load 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,” Vestager said.
However, Google, in response to a mail sent in by TechCrunch, responded to the Commission’s investigation by saying “anyone can use Android, (its mobile operating system) with or without Google applications. Hardware manufacturers and carriers can decide how to use Android and consumers have the last word about which apps they want to use on their devices. We continue to discuss this with the European Commission.”
Google’s Android came under the EC’s heavy scrutiny during the second quarter of 2015. The Commission has been turning the heat on the tech giant for a couple of years now; with investigation into Google’s search comparison service leading to other areas including its operating system. Reports however, suggest that current investigations being carried out on Google’s Android OS appear to be on faster lane compared to previous ones. Several reports have indeed suggested that formal charges may be slammed on Google as early as this week.
Last Friday, a report by Politico suggested that the antitrust body has been asking Google’s rivals and customers to provide vital information to help make it in its quest to back up its investigations. This, according to the report has been ongoing for a couple of weeks—further suggesting that it is about to turn the screw on the tech giant. Vestager was however, non-committal when asked to confirm if the Commission was on the verge of issuing formal objections against Android. She however, confirmed that investigation into the OS is ongoing.
The EC’s spokeswoman expressed the Commission’s concern over the dominance of bigger players, and used the case of WhatsApp as an example. Per TechCrunch, she said:
“Take WhatsApp. It launched in 2009 with seed funding of 250 thousand dollars. By the time the Commission looked at its merger with Facebook, just five years later, it had 600 million users across the world. Today, it has a billion users,” Vestager noted, adding: “That kind of change could wipe out another company’s business before it has time to react. So we need to be sure that big companies don’t try to protect themselves by holding back innovation. “That’s why we’re looking closely at Google’s contracts with phone makers and operators which use the Android operating system.
Meanwhile, Google is not prepared to let go its dominance of the mobile market as its operating system continues to maintain a lion share of the industry.