updated 05:15 pm EDT, Wed August 10, 2011
FTC to focus on Android fairness and search
The FTC's investigation into Google is centering heavily on Android alongside the expected search, sources leaked Wednesday. A major thrust of the case has been gauging whether Google is preventing Android makers from using rival services. What these were wasn't divulged to WSJ informants.
Much of the dispute might center on default search. Korean search giants like Daum have filed lawsuits against Google complaining that they aren't being allowed on certain Android installs. Google has a three-tier licensing system where, to get the full range of apps and features, phone makers and carriers alike have to agree to use Google search and carry Google branding at the highest levels. Phones like the Samsung Fascinate have gotten away with forced Bing search, but it didn't get Google branding; the combined legal threat of of Microsoft and Verizon might have also played a role.
Microsoft has also been an architect of European complaints that accused Google of withholding full YouTube features from Windows Phone and other platforms that challenge Android.
Search as a whole would still be an important focus. Complaints would focus not just on the possibility that Google was stacking results in Places and other areas with its own services at the top, but that it might be scraping rivals' results. Yelp, one time a possible buyout candidate for Google, is believed to have had some of its user reviews stolen for Google place pages.
Google has claimed that it had expected it would face investigations as it got bigger, but it has also claimed it has been doing nothing wrong.
Outside of service access, Android has attacked by Microsoft for pricing practices. Microsoft and its supporters have claimed that Google is guilty of the very price dumping practices that Microsoft itself used to abuse its monopoly and control web browsers in the 1990s. By leveraging a much more successful business, Google was effectively claiming a monopoly by giving away for free what others had to charge licenses for.
Free licensing has been attributed to much of Android's ability to overtake Apple, since it can appeal not just to high-end smartphone designers but those making budget phones, most of all in countries like China where even slight price differences have a large impact.
Countering arguments have maintained that Microsoft is using patents of untested validity to shake down Android makers and make the OS too expensive to use.