Google Android Anti-Trust

The Google Play Store and Google Apps are not components that make Android work. Android can function without them. The basic function of an operating system is to run programs. They have more advanced functions than this and can be enhanced with additional tools from the creator of the operating system. First-party tools in the form of app stores and other programs made by the creator of the operating system can enhance the experience but are not required.

Google is facing anti-trust scrutiny. In a general sense, I do not think that Google violates the spirit of anti-trust. That is my opinion. The reason for my opinion is that Google gives Android away for free. Others are free to apply Android as they deem fit. Google does have the right to not associate their brand with anyone’s release of Android under U.S. Trademark.

They are also free to associate conditions with the use of that trademark. Others have made their own version of Android with nothing visibly Google related on those versions. The core problem for others seems to be around permission to have the Google Play Store on their devices. They feel that lack of access to the Play Store and Google apps diminishes the desirability of their solution.

Google does not have to provide the Play Store. A legitimate concern others have is that when they are permitted to use the Play Store, they must agree to other terms they do not like. I support their point of view. I understand that Google wants to influence Android in those situations where it is bundled with their programs, but Android is free. Conditions on how Android is configured should not be subject to outside influence given its status as an open source operating system.

Rather, the issue is not one of market competition or monopoly. Instead, it is two other issues. The first issue concerns contract law. Google’s assertions as to the configuration of Android when the Play Store is involved is probably not something that can be recognized in contracts. It is possible that they cannot make an assertion on this issue nor are the other parties obligated to observe such assertions. Rather, Google has the privilege of not making available the Play Store and other apps they make if they have legitimate reasons.

The other issue goes much deeper. The matter of law governing computers and technology. Standards organizations, research institutions, and academia has done a great job in the past of sustaining consensus around core technologies such as the Internet, programming languages, and interchangeable tools like USB. The intense commercialization of technology during the past 20 years has worked to weaken much of this requiring the involvement of groups well outside the determination of technology standards, ethics, and principles.

The result has been greater restrictions on the use and creation of technologies despite what is publicized. Technology company leaders who founded companies many years ago advocating the virtues of open research collaboration has seen themselves oversee institutions that became something other than that. The message of their earlier selves was not wrong, but they are now cultivating the very conditions that they once worked to change or divert. The technology community needs to search deep to determine what is really important and look beyond the trivial rivalries of market positioning.

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