updated 03:35 pm EDT, Wed September 21, 2011
Google chairman says Android inherently fair
Google chairman Eric Schmidt in his Senate testimony over possible antitrust abuses denied that Android was anti-competitive. When asked if Android could be modified to artificially hinder third-party apps, he contended that Android's purportedly open nature wouldn't allow it. Taking a dig at Microsoft, he noted that strictly closed-source code was where antitrust issues could happen, since it was only there that a firm could hide unfair limitations.
"Under open-source, it's impossible," Schmidt said. "If they did, even then, it would be reversible."
He also denied accusations that Google was unfairly restricting search on Android. It was "expressly possible" to use other search engines on Android, Schmidt said. He didn't directly address concerns that certain levels of Android licenses might dictate using Google search.
The statements on openness are somewhat disingenuous, as Google has deliberately withheld some source and considers certain parts of Android off-limits. However, the remarks do reflect a basic principle surrounding the OS. Much of the key code is visible, and both phone makers and carriers can usually modify the OS. Samsung's Fascinate earned notoriety when Verizon forced Bing as the default and didn't let users remove it until the Android 2.2 update.
Schmidt did admit that preloaded Google apps came preloaded on an estimated two thirds of Android phones, possibly giving them an advantage. Android's licensing also has options that don't require any Google apps, although Schmidt also noted that only the licenses with its apps included revenue sharing for search ads.
Microsoft, meanwhile, was fined $1.4 billion dollars' equivalent by the European Union for changes allegedly made to its own code. The developer was long thought to have had secret programming interfaces that gave only its own apps the full advantage, letting Microsoft's Office and server apps do more than equivalents. The company was eventually required to publish some code in a repository.
Apple by extension might be implicated in the accusations given iOS' closed source, although the tone of Schmidt's statements was leveled more at Microsoft.
On piracy concerns, Schmidt countered the primarily MPAA- and RIAA-made calls for Google to be forced into filtering and banning pirate sites. Google was worried about the specter of censorship and did its own checks, such as testing for obvious pirate sites. Humans can always find pirated sites quickly, but it was hard to automatically block those. To be fair in search, by definition, Google didn't want to be censored into limiting its results.
Google wants to "represent the web as it is, not as we wish it to be," he said.