updated 06:30 pm EDT, Wed September 15, 2010
Skyhook says Google geolocation anti-competitive
Skyhook on Wednesday sued Google for allegedly abusing its control over Android to exclude competitors for geolocation services. A Boston-based lawsuit accused Google of preventing Android phone makers from using Skyhook's positioning, such as its Wi-Fi triangulation, and instead requiring them to use Google's own. Motorola was supposedly forced to pull Skyhook from its devices to pass Google's compliance tests and wasn't even given the option of tuning the Skyhook software to meet the guidelines.
"There was a time when Google tried to compete fairly with Skyhook," the main lawsuit read. "But once Google realized its positioning technology was not competitive, it chose other means to undermine Skyhook and damage and attempt to destroy its position in the marketplace for location positioning technology."
CEO Ted Morgan claimed to have petitioned Google's Android leader Andy Rubin as late as today but filed the lawsuit after it appeared no concessions were possible. The loss of customers has cost Skyhook "millions of dollars," the complaint said.
A second lawsuit also accused Google of violating four Skyhook patents and, if successful, would ask for a permanent ban on Google's Wi-Fi triangulation routines without a settlement in place.
Google hasn't formally responded to either of the lawsuits.
The claims if true would be a major blow to the public image created for Android as an open platform. Phone designers officially have the freedom to modify much of the code in Android, including core aspects like positioning and the dialer, but the Skyhook allegations have implied that Google is strong-arming Android developers into using its own software components. Android hardware creators have three levels of access that dictate how much involvement Google has over what apps are included in return for control, but geolocation hasn't usually been one of the requirements.
Morgan went as far as to bring Skyhook's complaints into a larger, mounting concern that Android's openness is being hijacked. Furors have already existed over Verizon's decision to pull Google search from the Samsung Fascinate as well as AT&T's decision to block non-Market apps from its phones under the guise of security. Apple has already moved away from the Skyhook location services it used in the iPhone for most of its history, but its role as both OS and hardware maker meant it was simply making a strategic choice instead of abusing its authority.
"The message that Android is open is certainly not entirely true," the CEO explained. "Device makers can license technology from other companies and then not be able to deploy it." [via GigaOM and SAI]