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Android's openness in doubt as Google's strict OEM requirements are revealed

Internet giant requires prominence on Android devices
Thu Feb 13 2014, 15:38
Motorola Moto X runs Android 4.4 Kitkat

THE OPENNESS of Google's Android operating system was put in doubt on Thursday, as the firm's strict policies have been uncovered.

That's according to documents from Google's 2012 legal dustup with Oracle, first published on Thursday by Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman and spotted by the Wall Street Journal.

These documents seem to show that OEMs have a strict policy to follow in order to use Google's 'open' Android mobile operating system, including heavily promoting the firm's services. For example, Google requires that OEMs agree to preload specific Google Apps on their devices, and unless otherwise stated in writing by the firm all Google Apps must be included.

The firm also requires that Android phones come with Google Search set as the default search provider, and that Google's Network Locator Provider services comes pre-installed.

Google also requires that certain apps and widgets, such as its Search bar widget and the Play store, must be positioned "at least on the panel immediately adjacent to the Default Home Screen".

Edelman observed, "These MADA restrictions suppress competition. Thanks to the MADA, alternative vendors of search, maps, location, email, and other apps cannot outcompete Google on the merits; even if a competitor offers an app that's better than Google's offering, the carrier is obliged to install Google's app also, and Google can readily amend the MADA to require making its app the default in the corresponding category (for those apps that don't already have this additional protection)."

The Wall Street Journal report noted that while these documents are dated December 2012, these practices, or practices based on similar agreements, are still taking place between Google and Android OEMs. It also reported that the European Commission has been investigating the issue.

This news comes to light despite recent reports claiming that Google is taking steps to reaffirm the openness of its operating system. For example, the firm reportedly recently met with Samsung to ask it to tone down its Magazine UX, and allegedly will also soon require OEMs use the latest version of Android.

Google has yet to comment on the report. µ


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