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Schmidt: Android openness rules out Microsoft-like antitrust

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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. bitwrangler

    Joined: Dec 1969



    They're forgetting timeliness of access. While they may not be able to "hide" things, they can certainly prevent access to the latest source from anyone but their tier1 oem's thereby giving them a competitive advantage. So even if the letter of what Schmidt says were true, there are still ways that they could hinder both oem's and third party developers. It's funny that he mentions microsoft, because when you look at one of the primary competitive advantages that they had because they developed the OS and many of the primary apps that run on the os (e.g. early access to new features, bug fixes, a hand in shaping/prioritizing said features, etc) also run true even with the open source model.

  1. mytdave

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It won't be Android code where potential anti-trust issues will lay with Google, it will be their business practices and licensing agreements, etc. that will need to be closely watched.

  1. The Vicar

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Okay, fine.

    If you're so open, then stop playing with patents. Including the search patents.

  1. LenE

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Pay no attention to the man flapping his gums

    The anti-trust problem that Google has, is that it treads on the IP of others, and then "open sources" that. This provides a competitive disadvantage to the rightful IP holders. Sure, Google gives it out for free, because it sells eyeballs on the back-end. The competitors that they steal from do not have this business model, and suffer loss on the front-end.

    Just because someone else comes up with a good idea and you can figure out how to do the exact same thing and give it away free (e.g. Linkify), doesn't mean that your implementation isn't subject to the innovator's patent. Information doesn't want to be free, it is inanimate property. People want information to be free, because they are too cheap and lazy to either pay for it or develop it themselves. People who facilitate free property are called thieves, burglars, robbers, crooks, and fences.

    -- Len

  1. dashiel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    When did it stop being illegal to perjure yourself in America? Surely Eric can’t have forgotten about Google forcing Motorola to drop Skyhook in favor of their own location service.

  1. lkrupp

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Eric, Eric..

    you are such a tool. Playing the "who, little old me?" card are you?

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