European Commission launch early Android anti-trust probe

It seems the European Union has responded positively to complaints by Microsoft, Nokia and 12 others that Google is acting anti-competitively by giving Android away for free while Microsoft and other companies charge for their mobile software.

According to documents seen by the Financial Times, the EC has focused on allegedly anti-competitive deals struck between the US technology company and smartphone providers.

The documents state Nokia and Microsoft allege Google license Android software “below cost”, and “potential requests by Google to cancel and/or delay the launch of smartphone devices” based on competing operating systems or shipped with rival mobile services.

Google responded by saying:

“Android is an open platform that fosters competition. Handset makers, carriers and consumers can decide how to use Android, including which applications they want to use.”

At present the probe is informal, and the EC has sent a  23-page questionnaire to device makers and mobile operators, asking them 82 questions relating to mobile operating systems and preinstalled services since January 2009.

While Google gives Android away for free, to get access the the 800,000 apps in the Google Play store OEMs are forced to bundle Google’s other apps such as YouTube, Gmail and Google Now, helping Google scarf up 53% of mobile ad revenue.

With Google’s dominant mobile position, with more than 70% market share, such tying of operating system and ancillary services will certainly ring bells in the EC, who have repeatedly punish Microsoft for much more innocuous bundling, like Windows Media Player in desktop Windows.

Via FT.com

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