updated 10:45 am EDT, Fri April 15, 2011
Korea search firms say Android anticompetitive
Google faced mounting signs of antitrust concern on Friday as two South Korean search engine firms filed complaints with the country's Fair Trade Commission over Android. Daum and Naver's creator NHN both accused Google of blocking mobile search competition by making its search engine the default and supposedly making it difficult to change. Android was "systematically designed" to complicate this, NHN said, and wasn't letting carriers have distinctive search options.
"This limits opportunities for companies offering similar services to compete on a level playing field, restricts consumers' choices and discourages the growth of the mobile internet market as telecoms operators and handset makers will not be encouraged to offer differentiated products and services," it added.
Google insisted that Android was still an open platform and that carriers could choose which services to use. It hadn't seen the FTC complaints as of this writing.
Daum made the unusual argument that Google's statement was false by referring to Google's search share. While its traditional desktop search share was virtually flat at just two percent in Korea, its mobile share grew more than 10 times larger in 2010, it said. The company didn't address that much of it came from Android only just getting a foothold in Korea through the rise of the Galaxy S.
Carriers do have permission to change the default search tools and even drew controversy when Verizon forced the use of Bing and included code that actively blocked users from trying to reinstall Google search as the default. Concerns still exist that Google may be deliberately setting back phones that don't use its own engine as the default, although the same source for this also had some claims rejected by Google later.
Whether or not the allegations are accurate, Google has a vested interest in making its search the default in Android. It doesn't make any money from OS licensing and instead counts solely on the search and ad revenue from phone owners to make a profit. While it can still make money from its AdMob division or independent Google searches, its revenue drops to those it gets from a platform like the iPhone if the carrier or phone designer changes the defaults.