Microsoft may have financially stepped aside from its pursuit of raising antitrust arguments against Google in the EU, but that doesn’t mean the search engine giant is in the clear.
According to Bloomberg Business, the European Union may still be seeking to bring an antitrust complaint against Google regarding its Android operating system. Roughly five years ago, Microsoft and a coalition of other businesses banded together to persuade the European Union to look into possible anticompetitive practices Google may be leveraging with its search engine results.
During investigation on the search engine side, Google’s Android operating system also received ancillary glimpses as the operating system began steamrolling in adoption, thanks in part to a complaint filed by a Microsoft and Nokia Oyj backed group in 2013.
Last year, the EU finally opened an official inquiry into Google’s secret agreement with mobile device manufacturers that enables the company to pre-bundle its apps on each device. The terms of Google’s pre-bundling of apps have never been made public, but the EU is beginning to show concern that similar to the company’s dominance in search, it may also be leveraging an unfair advantage in mobile.
In particular, the EU is reported to be looking into if Google has leveraged its pre-bundling agreement to deter or stop altogether, mobile manufacturers from building and marketing their apps, stores, and versions of the Android operating system. With apps such as Chrome, Google Search, and the Play Store are front and center on a device, Google’s heavy handed pre-bundling may be robbing independent developers of a legitimate chance to compete.
Similar to Apple’s approach of providing first party solutions front and center on its devices, Google can be seen increasingly encroaching on fair and competitive practices despite being the gateway to a million plus apps, by putting its apps ahead of others.
Bloomberg Business also cites an order issued by Russia’s antitrust authorities last year that had Google renegotiate its ambiguous agreement with mobile device manufacturers. After complaints from Russian search engine provider, Yandex sought to address Google’s default options set to drive traffic to its services over that of local competition.
Even though Microsoft began raising questions about Google’s practices in the EU regarding search and mobile, with its more hands-off approach recently, it seems as though there is still a level of concern about Google’s ultimate intentions with the market share it has managed to amass. We'll have to keep an eye on this development to see if it impacts the mobile market, along with Microsoft's own Windows 10 Mobile.