updated 02:30 pm EDT, Mon May 9, 2011
Skyhook lawsuit docs show Google pressure
A set of newly unsealed messages from the ongoing Skyhook lawsuit against Google may have supported Skyhook's claims that Google was abusing its control over Android to shut out competing services. After a brief test that it believed proved Google's own geolocation was better than Skyhook's, Android product manager Steve Lee and others concluded that Skyhook's then-new deal with Motorola was dangerous for Google's business. The company was worried that it would cut off the improvement of Android's location database accuracy and looked like it began seeding concerns about compatibility primarily in a bid to get Skyhook's competition out.
While Android compatibility is a concern for Google, language from an August 6, 2010 e-mail from Android manager Dan Morrill suggested that the company was fully aware it was using compatibility terms to exclude Skyhook, the New York Times said. To him, hardware partners were already aware of the practice.
"We are using compatibility as a club to make them do things we want," Morrill said.
Google has contended that Motorola's break with Skyhook made no mention of technical compatibility issues, but it didn't have an explanation for contradiction in the e-mail and declined to talk to the newspaper about their content. The official break in the deal did mention Google's "contractual rights" to get information about users.
The company has repeatedly tried to portray Android as open but has attracted mounting criticism that its openness is selective. Along with letting carriers lock down phones to prevent certain kinds of apps or features, it has been chastised for its reluctance to offer source code as frequently as it has in the past.
For Android 3.0, Google said that the code wasn't usable for open source in its current state, although the firm has admitted that this also prevents Android 3.0 from getting on to non-sanctioned tablets. Critics have argued that this was the real motivation as Google wanted to prevent the rash of poorly made Android 2.2 tablets that helped cement Apple's lead with the iPad.