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Google's Android Contract: Not Very Open
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jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 12:36:28 PM
Semantics
That's an interesting opinion from someone who's consulted for Google's chief rivals in the overall technology market. Perhaps the usage of the term "open" is really the issue here. Whatever apps come preinstalled on any device (which includes all kinds of junk that carriers and the hardware makers add without regard to customer preference), competing apps can be installed and defaults can be set to bypass the native Google app for just about any function. All of the big tech guys across all of the markets do similar things. Does that make it right? No, but maybe we ought not single out one over the other.

My decidedly non-legal expert opinion...
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 2:01:40 PM
Re: Semantics
This idea that Google's platform is open is pretty much a farce. Let's face it: Google wants to court developers to its ecosystem. In order to do that, it promoted the ethos of openness. But in order for it to succeed in its business objectives, it has to have control over its operating systems like Android. 

It's the Microsoft and Apple playbook. Google is in the same game. 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 2:08:36 PM
Re: Semantics
The problem is that Google claims to be open, but isn't. I don't hear many complaints about Apple's very closed ecosystem anymore, but they're very clear that it is closed with few prospects for changing. Google says they're open, but they're really no different than all the other players in that space.

Shame on Google for misrepresenting itself, and shame on the rest of us for believing any tech giant would really be all that different from how everyone else in the market plays.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 3:29:48 PM
Re: Semantics

And where was the Harvard review on the Anti-trust issues with Apple and Microsoft?  Google's play on the word "open" is truly a marketing tactic not based in open code reality and it's no secret.  You are exactly right, Google's play is the same as Apple and M$ so why the anti-trust concerns?

jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 4:36:29 PM
Re: Semantics
People are allowed to comment on the practices of one vendor without commenting on all of them.  Some of MS' and Apple's practices may well be similar and illegal.  If you want to do the appropriate analyses and let people know your findings, you're more than welcome to do so.  MS definitely got into legal trouble over its efforts to dictate to OEMs what to do with Windows.  Under existing precedent, Google's announced policy is at least suspect.

And it's always possible that Prof. Edelman *has* done such analyses which are not being reported here.

 
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 12:55:32 PM
Android is a lease not a purchase
Google's agreement with partners is like a landlord's agreement with tenants.  If no pets are allowed then no pets can be in the apartment.  If not liked then you don't have to take it.  In addition, Google gives Android to partners for free unlike Microsoft.  An all or nothing approach on Google Apps seems legal for the right to free usage.  Samsung is working on their own OS so we'll see how well that goes but if HP couldn't make WebOS work I'm not so sure Samsung can go it alone either.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 1:57:03 PM
Re: Android is a lease not a purchase
> An all or nothing approach on Google Apps seems legal

Except in antitrust law, things change when a company dominates a market. What might be fine for a company with a small market share to do may not be for a market leader like Google. That's why the definition of the relevant market matters.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 3:22:22 PM
Re: Android is a lease not a purchase
I find it interesting now that Google's Andriod is a dominent mobile platform it's taking this type of heat when Microsoft has pretty much conducted itself in the same manner for decades.  Dare a manufacturer place a licensed OEM version of Windows on a device with "vendor" changes upon it.  How about omitting I.E. or Bing search for example.  Not installing any Microsoft components is not allowed with no anti-trust there except maybe being forced to provide options at time of install which Google also allowes.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 4:44:04 PM
Re: Android is a lease not a purchase
Interesting point, but usage of copyrighted materials is a bit murky from both legal and ethical perspectives.  No publisher in the world tries to dictate to consumers what is to be done with the paper books they buy.  By law, copies cannot be distributed without the consent of the copyright holder, but nobody tries to tell people they can't read the books aloud, discuss their contents, resell them, satirize them, or donate them to the public library.  Yet all manner of restrictions are imposed on the usage of computer software on the theory that the license is a contract between the publisher and the end user, even though the latter only has the option of accepting or rejecting the "agreement" in full.

 
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 4:53:13 PM
Re: Android is a lease not a purchase
I guess you've never used a Kindle.  Guess what?  Same software and usage rules are now being applied to digital books.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 5:20:51 PM
Re: Android is a lease not a purchase
Agreed on Kindle.  That's why I won't own one, or download DRM-encumbered ebooks.

It turns out that a lot of good literature has been produced in the last 3000 years and nearly all of it is public domain.  I can always buy a paper copy of books still under copyright.

 

 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 2:48:05 PM
Adroid adopters should insist on more openness
Agree, Tom, once you pass 50% market share, you become more susceptible to charges of monopoly and restraint of trade. Google dictates the adoption of Google Maps, the reverse side of the coin of Apple restricting its adoption in favor of Apple Maps. Which company is more restrictive? To me, they're doing the same thing, with Apple acknowledging it's a closed system. Still, there's resentment in Edelman's assessment of Google using the term open. Microsoft knows better than most how damaging "open" is when used in contrast to your company's practices. Android adopters, not Microsoft consultants, should be protesting. 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 3:25:52 PM
Re: Adroid adopters should insist on more openness
Google likes to point out that Edelman has consulted for Microsoft but I don't think that invalidates or addresses his points. While Google may be guilty of using "open" a bit too freely, I'm not convinced its tying is more anticompetitive than what every other platform company does.

Should Android and Windows Phone even be thought of as the same market, given that Microsoft is in the business of selling its operating system and Android is free? Android pretty much killed the market for non-free operating systems. 
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 4:31:22 PM
I see I'm not the only one who suspects illegality
But as neither I nor Prof. Edelman are lawyers, I trust that the latter consulted with a law professor prior to making his statement.  I understand that Harvard has some very good ones.

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 5:01:52 PM
Re: I see I'm not the only one who suspects illegality
>But as neither I nor Prof. Edelman are lawyers

Actually, Edelman is a lawyer (and something of an overachiever, degree-wise):

From his bio...

"Ben holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Economics at Harvard University, a J.D. from the Harvard Law School, an A.M. in Statistics from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College (summa cum laude). He is a member of the Massachusetts Bar. "
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 5:04:12 PM
Re: I see I'm not the only one who suspects illegality
I'll retract my comment, then.  Serves me right for assuming instead of doing the proper research.

 
ShanKarthic
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ShanKarthic,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/14/2014 | 5:02:28 PM
Not understanding what this has to do with Android being open
"In order to obtain key mobile apps, including Google's own Search, Maps, and YouTube, manufacturers must agree to install all the apps Google specifies, with the prominence Google requires, including setting these apps as default where Google instructs," -

What has this to do with Android OS being open or not?  Android OS is open and free (AOSP) for anyone to deploy however they want.  If someone wants to add an app that is not part of the open Android OS such as YouTube, why can't Google demand a package deal?  Issue will be if they make it such that for the open Android OS to work you need a specific Google service and to use that specific service Google in turn demands the above package deal.  Considering what I had to do every time I flash AOSP or derived ROMs, that does not seem to be the case.  So basically, the way I see it, anyone is free to use Android OS with whichever apps they want but if they want to use Google Apps, Google demands something.  In that case, OS Market share (80% or 97%) does not matter.

Now, considering Google Apps only, sure Google is leveraging Search App to push other Apps.  But their search market share is less than 70% and is not a monopoly.

"... from installing just (say) YouTube, but not Google Maps, if the manufacturer so chooses?" Edelman said in an email. "Or from installing Google Play and Google Maps, but DuckDuckGo for search?"  

As long as Google is not having a monopoly in any of those App domains and does not make it impossible to use alternatives in open Android OS, there is no standing to demand that.  If anyone decides to pre-package a Google App, that is more as a selling a point rather than a mandatory need.  In which case, Google can do as it wishes.

What community should be worried about and keep an eye on is, if Google makes it impossible to use Android OS without specific Google Apps/Services.
ShanKarthic
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ShanKarthic,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/14/2014 | 5:07:28 PM
Re: Not understanding what this has to do with Android being open
Edelman, who acknowledges having served as a consultant for Google competitors like Microsoft, 

 

Actually, now I understand.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
2/20/2014 | 5:20:50 AM
Re: Google's Android Contract: Not Very Open
I don't understand what exactly is so troubling with attaching a few products of your own with your platform which is free. Or maybe I am not very conversant with anti-competitive laws. I would have been more concerned if Google had not allowed the replacement of its built-in apps in Android by other apps. You may change the default app for any function.

 
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
2/20/2014 | 6:06:12 AM
Re: Google's Android Contract: Not Very Open
Apple has been more restrictive than Google in this regard. But yes I agree that Apple is doing it openly without claiming to be open. Google may be found culprit of overstating or over boasting about its openness but then as @DDURBIN1 said that it is more of a marketing tactic than a reality. Google doesn't mean it J


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