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Another Cynical "Antitrust" Complaint From Microsoft and Its Buddies Against Google ~pj Updated 4Xs
Tuesday, April 09 2013 @ 10:51 AM EDT

Evidently, Microsoft and its proprietary friends didn't get the result they hoped for from their first antitrust complaint against Google to the EU Commission. The latest news is that the first one is being amicably resolved, according to the New York Times. Instead of saying to themselves, I guess we were wrong, instead Fairsearch, the Microsoft-led group that seems to have no other reason for being but to attack Google, files another antitrust complaint.

And when someone files a complaint with the EU Commission, it has to consider it. So it will.

Here's what the new complaint is about, or says it's about:

FairSearch’s complaint is that “Google uses deceptive conduct to lockout competition in mobile” — by, specifically, requiring OEMs that use Android to pre-load a suite of Google services and give them “prominent default placement” on the device in order to also get access to ”must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play”. By doing this, FairSearch argues that Google “disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today”, adding that this “predatory distribution of Android at below-cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform”....

“Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data,” said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel to the FairSearch coalition, in a statement. “We are asking the Commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market. Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system.”

That is preposterous, and I'll tell you why. But what I do want the EU Commission to think about is this: is this constant attack on Google itself a result of antitrust schemes by the old guard to destroy the new kid on the block? What? Microsoft would never do anything mean or underhanded? Puh lease.

Here's why the new complaint is ludicrous to me. If you don't with to be in any kind of "partnership" with Google or just don't want to prominently display anything, just don't. Do what Amazon did and opt out and *still use Android* -- as Amazon has with its Kindle, building a business on the code it freely took from Google, and doing whatever it wants with it. There are no consequences to Amazon. None. It uses whatever defaults it likes. It pays Google nothing, not in money, not in displaying its search engine, nothing.

If these complaints were true, Facebook couldn't do Facebook Home. Really. Think about it. The Guardian calls its article about Facebook Home, "Lockpicking Android for Fun and Profit":

Amazon's Kindle Fire, announced late September 2011, is viewed as a clever "Android lockpick". Notwithstanding the term's illicit flavour, Amazon's burglary is entirely legal – an intended consequence of Google's decision to open-source its Android mobile operating system. Download the Android source code here, modify it to your heart's – or business needs' – content, load it onto a device and sell as many as you'd like.

Because it doesn't fully meet the terms of the Android Compatibility Program, Amazon's proprietary version isn't allowed to use the Android trademark, and the company had to open its own App Store. In industry argot, Amazon "forked" Android; it spawned an incompatible branch in the Android source tree.

The result of this heretic version of Android is a platform that's tuned to Amazon's own needs: Promoting its e-commerce without feeding Google's advertising money pump.

And Facebook has done that, wrapping a shell around Android and using it in a way Google probably doesn't much like but which is perfectly allowable. There isn't a company in the world that doesn't try to protect its brand, by some measure of quality control and standards to follow if you wish to align yourself with the company, but the point is, you can avoid all that if you choose not to align yourself with it, take the code, and use it to suit your own purposes, as both Amazon and Facebook have done.

Here's the thing I'd like to highlight: Microsoft and Nokia are both free to use the free Android code and wrap a shell around it and compete that way too. Presto. No antitrust nonsense about not being able to compete with free, as Fairsearch, like the SCO Group before it, claims:

According to FairSearch, the "below-cost" policy "makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform".
They *can* compete with free. Just take the free code and make it look like your brand and make it do what you want it to do. There is absolutely nothing stopping them from doing that, except pride and stubborness. Nokia was already selling phones based on free code, and it *chose* to use Windows instead and is tanking the company. I have no sympathy, and neither should the EU Commission. Build a more sensible business.

Remember the Wallace v. FSF litigation, where the claim was that it was unfair, indeed an antitrust issue, to have to compete with free code licensed under the GPL, the license on Linux? Here's what the judge said about that, "[T]he GPL encourages, rather than discourages, free competition and the distribution of computer operating systems, the benefits of which directly pass to consumers. These benefits include lower prices, better access and more innovation." File that under Duh.

And maybe Microsoft has forgotten, but I haven't, that it spent years telling the world that using the free Linux code actually cost more than using Microsoft products. They can't have it both ways, can they? I also don't forget that Microsoft got Motorola to put Bing as the default search engine on its phones in 2010. How was that possible if the current whining were fact-based?

And who can forget the SCO Group, funded in part by Microsoft and Sun, which is now part of Oracle? Its then-CEO gave an unforgettable talk, There's No Free Lunch, on how there is no way to have a software industry if folks don't have to pay for software. That company went so far as to claim (briefly, but hilariously -- it's my favorite SCO moment by far, and the list is long) that the GPL is unConstitutional. It's unConstitutional to give things away, no less. That was the argument. Darl even sent Congress a letter about how unfair and dangerous free code under the GPL is. I called it at the time Darl's Greed is Good manifesto. SCO, of course, is no more, which leads me to believe that greed isn't *always* good, but then my brain defaults to logical, but the link takes you to the UnXis page, who bought SCO's business, and which has preserved this wonderful writing of Darl's for posterity, which tells you something about UnXis, methinks.

You, as an individual can do pretty much the same thing Facebook and Amazon did, minus making a profit. Buy an Android phone and modify it any way you want. Here's 50 apps and resources to help you modify the homescreen alone. There's even an app called Android Tweaker to help you. Here's Pimp My ROM, the app that lets you tweak everything. There are no consequences. Put Linux on it instead, pure Linux, minus Android anything, if you want to. Millions of people do that. Go to Google Search, or whatever you use, and search for

Android modify
Yes. As you can see if you used Google Search, you can find zillions of ways to modify Android or get rid of it entirely, using Google's own search engine.

How far from anticompetitive is that?

I'm tired of Microsoft throwing tacks in the every competitor's roadway. They've been doing this as long as I can remember. You want to know why hardly anyone buys their mobile products? I can tell you. I went to see them at BestBuy over the weekend and tried out the laptops with Windows 8 on them and looked at the phones, Nokia's. People don't like them because they are annoying. They are hard to figure out, the laptops especially, and they are ugly. Yes. I said it. They are. And, to me, it's unbearable to have the tiles constantly changing. I'd never, ever buy them. Microsoft's chief advantage was familiarity. And they went and designed it away.

What Oracle is doing in this mobile discussion is a mystery to me. What? If not for Google, they'd be selling a mobile phone? No, they wouldn't. They had the opportunity, and Sun turned it down. Oracle revealed that whole history in Oracle's fantasy lawsuit against Google, the one it lost.

I do want to commend Apple for not joining in with these folks.

And what Thomas Vinje is doing switching sides and working for Microsoft now is also a mystery. I hope he's making a lot of money, because he certainly knows what Microsoft is like, having fought against them before the EU Commission for years. It's sad to watch this. But, like I've said for years, Microsoft has too much money, and it uses it to cause competitors trouble. I wish they'd put some more of that money into making decent products. We, the public, can't help it if we don't like their products. If they offered Windows 8 to me for free, I'd decline the offer. Google's free Android has nothing to do with it. I don't use Android either, actually. I am not interested in any mobile phone until some governmental agency, or corporate interests, decide to quit following its customers around everywhere they go. Like that will ever happen. Let's not pretend that any of this has to do with helping out us little people. As Michael Jackson's song says, they don't really care about us.

And the EU Commission should not care about propping up dying companies who can't compete in a new world. Seriously. If this argument was about mousetraps, it'd be an antitrust violation to come up with a better mousetrap, because it surely would put the old mousetrap makers out of business, if they didn't adapt.

How stupid is it for the EU Commission to be used to stunt innovation? The proprietary companies realize, finally, that free and open works out well for everyone but them and their old-fashioned business model. And instead of following Google's lead and changing their business model, they'd like help squelching the new competition, which offers people products that they have fallen in love with and want to keep using.

And for FairSearch, the inappropriately named entity carrying Microsoft's flag, let me tell you something. There isn't one company that you represent that anyone I know wants to use for search. Seriously. I don't use Bing because I think it's second rate. But if it were better than Google's, I'd still use Google's, because I decided years ago that Microsoft's business ethics were lower than what I require in a company that I wish to do business with. And this latest attack, with the flimsy "antitrust" cover, shows me that I was absolutely right to make that decision.

And may I hold high the Internet's banner for a moment? The very last thing anyone who cares about the Internet or free speech or freedom at all should want is some governmental body telling us what can and can't appear in search results, or worse what *must* appear. Seriously. Don't imagine for a second that this can end well for you and me. Microsoft and its little helpers should be ashamed to even be trying for such a result. I know. Microsoft isn't famous for feeling shame.

Here's what I believe their plot is really about: killing off Linux, Android, anything free and open, and then gouging customers like the goode olde dayes of proprietary monopoly on the desktop. There is nothing new under this sun, just new weapons of choice. And that is exactly what the EU Commission should investigate to see if it is, indeed, the real antitrust plot.

[ Update: A reader asked how to contact the EU Commission, so here is the page, which says:

7. Is there a contact point for consumers on competition issues?

The European Commissioner responsible for competition created a Consumer Liaison Unit within the Commission’s Competition DG to ensure a permanent dialogue with European consumers. If you have any question on competition please contact our Consumer Liaison officer by using this address:

Do be very polite and on point if you do write. No one listens to rude people. I don't either, and neither do you. So be extra, extra polite, please, if you wish to be listened to.

[ Update 2: Here's a video on YouTube, "How To Remove System Apps From Android Smartphone!", showing how incredibly easy it is to remove any system app from a rooted Android phone.]

[ Update 3: Just so you know I'm not making this up, here's a video on YouTube, taking you to the part where the guy is setting up a Google Nexus 7 with Android Jellybean 4.1, and he has a Google account, but it doesn't register, so he just skips it and sets it up without it perfectly fine without it. And here is another video, going back to Android 2.1 on a Sony Xperia X10, and this guy just bypasses the Google Account button completely and also sets it up just fine. Ergo, you are not required to use GMail or to have a Google Account to set up and run Android phones.]

[ Update 4: Google, Blackberry, Earthlink and Red Hat have now asked the FTC and the Department of Justice to look into the practice of operating companies outsourcing patent enforcement to trolls. They believe, depending on the facts, that such agreements can be an antitrust violation.]

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