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What's Wrong With The Latest FairSearch Complaint to the EU Commision About Google? A Lot ~pj Updated 5Xs
Thursday, July 18 2013 @ 04:16 PM EDT

I've been thinking a lot about the latest complaint to the EU Commission by those persistent anti-Google complainers, FairSearch. Believe it or not, part of the complaint is that it's anticompetitive to distribute Android for free when proprietary companies have costs for development:
When its comes to the charges related to "predatory distribution of Android at below cost" Blaber is less understanding of FairSearch's stance. "That is a very difficult argument to make in a mobile industry where open source is quickly becoming the norm. ... Really it's only Microsoft that still has a model based on license fees," he said.
Aha! Microsoft. So, it's about *Microsoft's* business model, not any other FairSearch member? Well, maybe Microsoft's little partner, Nokia, but that is the same thing, having trouble competing against Android, and complaining to regulators that it's not fair to distribute Android for free when others have proprietary products that they claim they have to charge for to recoup their investment. That makes this complaint yet another anti-Linux, anti-Open Source, anti-GPL attack from Microsoft, which has a long history of such behavior. It's an attack against the Open Source development model itself. Free distribution is the norm for Open Source. It's also, I believe, part of a coordinated smear campaign against Google. And while FairSearch claims it's not dominated by Microsoft, this complaint demonstrates otherwise.

I suggest writing to the EU Commission, to make sure they understand what is at issue. Here's the page that lists who to write to:

comp-greffe-antitrust at ec.europa.eu
I know I don't need to remind you that politeness counts. Also, do read all the instructions on that linked page. For example, they don't accept any emails larger than 8 MB. I could do it in a tweet, I suspect:
FairSearch attacks Open Source/GPL. #NotFair.
I doubt the EU Commission realizes this is what is at stake, if it took me this long to figure it out, and I'm always trying to be on the alert. If the EU Commission gets this wrong, the result would be that it would discourage use of Open Source code, out of fear of being accused, if successful, of anticompetitive behavior for offering free code.

Incidentally, South Korea just acquitted Google of any antitrust behavior regarding search, after looking into it for two years, saying there are plenty of alternative search engines (here are 11 of them), and the EU Commission should not accept this new attack against Google as valid either. So far, it's just a complaint, and the Commission looks into any complaint filed, but it's not yet an official investigation, and it should never become one. I'll show you why I say that.

Jump To Comments

Update, Update 2
Update 3, Update 4
Update 5]

I can't show you the complaint itself, because Europe isn't like the US, where all filings are made public. But according to media reports, the latest complaint to the EU Commission has two prongs, one that vendors have to use Google apps on their phones and secondly that it's not fair to distribute Android for free, where proprietary software is sold on a per license basis. Here's the press release FairSearch put out when they filed, speaking of smearing Google in the media:

Google achieved its dominance in the smartphone operating system market by giving Android to device-makers for ‘free.’ But in reality, Android phone makers who want to include must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play are required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone, the complaint says. This disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today.

Google’s 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, the complaint says.

And here's a white paper as reported by Politico, listing FairSearch's allegations:
  • Google used its “desktop search dominance” to fund and give away its Android operating system for free and has since taken over the market for licensable mobile operating systems.
  • Google imposes “de facto” anti-competitive exclusive agreements on Android handset makers.
  • Google is leveraging its positions in desktop search and mobile OS by bundling its Mobile Search with Android “to exclude competition in search on mobile platforms.”
  • Google is bundling its own mobile services in Android through free preloaded apps “in order to foreclose competing apps and service providers.”

The antitrust allegations against Google regarding Android are similar to the Justice Department’s antitrust arguments against Microsoft in the 1990s that the software maker was using its dominance in one market to squelch competition in another.

In this case, FairSearch argues that Google has been using Android licensing contracts to help bundle its other products by requiring handset makers to take Google apps — such as Maps, YouTube, search — and set Google’s app store as the default, said ThomasVinje, EU counsel for FairSearch. Even worse in this case, he added, is that Google is giving Android away for free, which he alleged was undercutting the market by using “predatory” pricing.

First off, this isn't even fundamentally true, the part about bundling. Amazon's Kindle uses Android code, and it doesn't put anything on the Kindle that it doesn't feel like putting on the Kindle, so that is a false complaint about bundling. Barnes & Noble used Android for its Nook readers, and they didn't bundle anything. You can do whatever you want with Android code. It's free, free to use as you want. Microsoft could use it the same way, making it suit its purposes, and it wouldn't even have to call it Android. Amazon doesn't.

And if you are selling an Android phone, what app store would you use? iTunes? The apps have to run on Android. Google isn't Microsoft. It's not even close to being the same. It's not the 1990's. Whose idea was it to reproduce those accusations against Microsoft and substitute Google's name, as if they are on the same planet, from a business perspective?

Anyway, it's not even true about bundling on Android phones. It can't be. Do you remember the Samsung Android phone that had Bing as the default? I do. It was not only the default, there was no way to change it to Google. If the FairSearch complaint was actually true, as in based on actual facts instead of astroturf spin, that couldn't have happened. But it did happen.

That was in 2010, when Bing was first made available for Android phones. It was only the second Microsoft app made available, the first being Microsoft Tag Reader, according to the CNET article, so if Microsoft wanted its apps to be placed on Android phones, which I doubt, it should have made more of them available. As for Nokia, it doesn't have an Android app for Nokia Maps. It has a mapping service on the web and it sends users there instead of building an app as one ordinarily thinks of the term. And it only made that available last year. Would you put Apple's map on your phone instead of Google's? Seriously? And if, as we read, Bing returns more malware than Google Search, would you choose Bing for *your* phone? I have used Opera's browser along with Firefox and others for years. Do you know what Opera has as their default search engine? DuckDuckGo, which uses Bing, by the way, for its results.

How stupid is a complaint about bundling apps from these two companies, Microsoft and Nokia, then? If they were really fair, they'd tell them all this themselves, instead of me having to do it. What? Microsoft doesn't know about that Android phone with Bing as the default? Puh-lease. There were so many complaints, they *have* to know.

You guys probably know of more examples of phones not requiring that all Google apps FairSearch lists be the default apps, so feel free to share what you know. I don't own a mobile phone, personally, so I'm limited in what I can speak to as a user, as opposed to as a researcher.

My main focus is that what Google does with Android code is exactly what the whole Free and Open Source community normally does with projects. It's normal. The whole point of releasing code freely is so it can reach as many developers and users as possible, so the code can be improved quickly. And it is, which is why most people today would prefer to use Android. Android is easy to root, and then the world is your oyster. People like freedom to do what they want with their own things. It's in our DNA.

With GPL'd software, a principal difference between it and proprietary software is that with proprietary software, you charge for a license; with GPL'd software, like Linux, you don't charge for the license. It's not distributed like proprietary software, where you charge for a license. What that cunning Microsoft is doing in this complaint is attacking the very thing one would have to do when distributing Linux under the GPL -- make the license free of charge.

And if giving code away for free is anticompetitive, why is Oracle distributing MySQL and its Java implementations for free and under the GPL, no less? For that matter, Oracle takes Red Hat's free code, adds a bit here and there, and then offers it as its own distribution of Linux. Is that anticompetitive? It's under the GPL and it's free. What remedy is FairSearch asking for if free distribution of code is what they claim is the problem? If the answer is that no one can distribute code for free and be successful at the same time, that's like saying the only solution is to force customers to pay more than they have to now for a phone. Is that the purpose of regulators? And if Oracle thinks free distribution is anticompetitive, it needs to change its own ways. Or is it Microsoft running FairSearch, not Oracle? You tell me.

If Google has to stop distributing Android code for free, does Red Hat have to stop making its code available via the Fedora project? I doubt Oracle would like that.

Code made available for free is how it's usually done, particularly GPL-licensed code, like Linux. There is no law against making money from distributing your software, but it's always so available, most people do what Red Hat does, sell support services, and that's how they make their money. Is that now "anticompetitive"?

I mean, that's what Google is doing with Android, if you think about it, only they provide apps that do the basic things people want done instead of personal support services, if you want that. I have a Chromebook now, with Google's ChromeOS, and I don't use a single Google app on it, by the way, even though it's designed especially for that. I don't have to. You can do whatever you want with free code. That's the entire point of it. There is no lock in. Google always gives you choices. In fact, I put GNU/Linux on my Chromebook using instructions Google itself provides. I mean, come on. You don't even have to use cookies when you use their search engine, if you don't want to. The New York Times forces you to use cookies, so they can track what you read, I suppose, but Google doesn't do that.

So what I hear FairSearch saying is that if a GPL-based product is wildly successful, they have to start charging for a license or it's anticompetitive. That's just wrong. It's Microsoft, once again, attacking the GPL.

I'm always trying to be alert for Microsoft hijinks, because Microsoft is, as Jeff John Roberts wrote last year on paidContent, a "master at the craft" of astroturfing. And the latest smear campaign against Google by FairSearch, Microsoft and FOSSpatents is deeply unfair and I now conclude yet another example of Microsoft doing what it does.

Here's a bit more of what Roberts wrote in April of 2012:

The phenomenon has been on display again during this week’s epic intellectual property trial between Google vs Oracle. Florian Mueller, a self-proclaimed patent expert funded by both Oracle and Microsoft, has been issuing a flurry of biased blog posts that don’t mention his paymasters. (His risible excuse for the shameless plumping is that he’s an “analyst”).

Microsoft is hardly the first company to astroturf but it does deserve special mention for being a master of the craft. As well as its patent puppet, the company has a roster of other hired mouths. ...

For a company like Microsoft that is in tight competition for billions of dollars, spending a few million on astroturf may be a smart strategy. The potential pay-off is huge — especially if astroturf efforts get a rival dragged before court or regulatory investigations....The problem here is that astro-turfing may help companies but it also harms the public’s ability to understand complicated issues in technology.

It harms regulators' ability to understand complicated issues as well.

How Fair is FairSearch?

As for Fairsearch, how has its behavior been, would you say? Here's how The Verge described FairSearch in April, in case you're new to FairSearch:

Initially formed by travel search engines Kayak, Expedia, and TripAdvisor, then later joined by Microsoft, FairSearch describes itself as a coalition of businesses concerned with protecting consumers’ rights online. A choice of search provider underpinned by vibrant competition, a resolute commitment to transparency, and an unswerving desire for innovation are the three central pillars of FairSearch’s stated credo. Oh, and Google is the villain with the technicolor logo that’s on a mission to destroy it all.

Beneath the sheen of do-gooder ideology, FairSearch can be most charitably described as a Google watchdog. It seeks to fan the flames of disapproval where they’ve started organically, originate them where they haven’t, and generally disseminate negativity toward the Google brand. Think of it as a PR firm working to destroy rather than create goodwill.

Every member company in FairSearch competes with Google in some fashion, and would enjoy an obvious advantage from seeing the leader’s wings clipped, but there’s another important benefit that the lobbying group confers upon its members: obscurity. Putting on its FairSearch hat, Microsoft can mount public assaults on Google’s practices and reputation without tarnishing its own name by being visibly involved in the spat. In the fight for hearts and minds, FairSearch helps to create the appearance of Google being in perpetual trouble with the law, whereas in reality what Google’s facing is a concerted attack from a cabal of its competitors.

The latest development in this ongoing relationship comes courtesy of an EU complaint filed by FairSearch against Google. It ventures into new territory for FairSearch as its allegations relate to Android’s smartphone dominance and Google’s "predatory distribution" of the mobile operating system. This would be an oddity if you read the coalition’s web-centric mission statement, but fits neatly into the larger goal of tripping Google up at every opportunity. In fact, the current finger-pointing was presaged at the end of last year, when Nokia and Oracle joined FairSearch and Politico got ahold of a white paper outlining FairSearch’s attack on Google’s mobile efforts....

But it's still unclear exactly what FairSearch wants out of all this lobbying — or how real the threats it warns against actually are.

So what I think is going on is astroturfing against Google, and the complaints to regulators are very much a part of that. I mean, Microsoft has an entire group who do nothing but find fault with Google. Like attacking them for not protecting your privacy, those hypocrites. Microsoft was the first to sign up with the NSA, after all, speaking of privacy.

And in case you think it's just me that is finding the FairSearch complaints unsavory or at least not appealing, here are two more articles complaining about FairSearch:

  • Why FairSearch Can't Find Anyone To Listen To Its Anti-Google Tirades by Brian Proffit, ReadWrite, April 16, 2013:
    It's not like FairSearch, a tech lobbying group with 17 members that each have a reason to want Google hamstrung in one way or another, isn't trying. It has run advertisements. It has produced videos. It has held panel discussions. It has lobbied lawmakers and regulators.

    The general response? Apathy.

    For instance, two anti-Google videos FairSearch posted on YouTube have only 1,874 views. The group's Twitter account has 939 followers. Clearly, it's having trouble getting traction....

    Read "FairSearch.org," and it's hard not to think "Microsoft" — Google's sworn enemy. True, Microsoft is only one of the group's 17 members, and isn't even a co-founder. But it's still hard to take FairSearch's complaints at face value, because everyone knows they're self-serving and tailored to advance the interests of Microsoft and other members. Particularly when they follow Microsoft's own high-profile assaults on Google.

  • Microsoft not fooling anyone by using FairSearch front in antitrust complaint against Google, Gregg Keizer, ComputerWorld, April 9, 2013:
    Microsoft isn't fooling anyone by hiding behind a trade group to complain to European antitrust regulators about Google and its Android mobile operating system, a legal expert said today.

    "FairSearch.org is seen by many observers here as a Microsoft Trojan Horse," said Nicolas Petit, a professor of competition law at the University of Liege in Belgium. "Everyone understands here in Brussels that it's Microsoft versus Google." On Monday, FairSearch, a group whose 17 members include Microsoft, Nokia -- a Microsoft partner in mobile -- and Oracle, filed a complaint with the European Commission, the EU's antitrust agency, claiming that Google has abused Android's dominance in the smartphone space to deceive hardware partners, monopolize the marketplace, and control consumer data....

    The Commission declined to comment on the FairSearch filing, but confirmed it had received the complaint. Under its rules, the Commission can move forward on a formal investigation, or reject the complaint.

    But the source of the claims is Microsoft, pure and simple. "No one is really fooled. Everyone knows that [FairSearch] lies in the shadow of Microsoft," Petit said.

    Over the years, Microsoft has used several groups to urge the Commission to investigate its rival's business practices, including the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (ICOMP) and the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT). The former is largely funded by Microsoft, while Microsoft is one of several prominent members -- others include eBay and Oracle -- of the latter.

Microsoft joined FairSearch in 2010, but it was long believed by many to be working behind the scenes even before that.

So why is the EU Commission taking the FairSearch complaints seriously when FairSearch is getting its facts wrong?

What's Wrong With the Latest Fairsearch Complaint about Google?

There is a smear campaign going on. And a harrassment campaign. It's that simple. After Microsoft, and later Oracle, hired Florian Mueller of FOSSpatents, there's been a steady stream of negative articles about Google and any vendor who uses Android. Lawsuits galore, as well, generating even more anti-Google headlines. The goal seems to me to be to influence not just the public but OEMs, judges, potential juries, as well as regulators who are then bombarded with complaints from Microsoft and its buddies/proxies both in the US and in Europe. Like FairSearch.

Where do they get these names? Fairness doesn't seem to me to be what FairSearch is after.

We've seen attempts to destroy the GPL before in complaints to the EU Commission, and Florian Mueller was advising the folks suggesting, unsuccessfully, that MySQL have its license changed from the GPL to some other license, like the BSD license, saying that the GPL was a source of "infection" and that it "effectively prevents this from being a commercial opportunity".

Microsoft has been trying to destroy the GPL for a long, long time, by hook or by crook. I know because we've been covering it for a long, long time right here on Groklaw. It was Microsoft who helped fund the SCO attack on Linux, both directly (buying a license, they claimed, to SCO's patents and copyrights on UNIX, when SCO owned neither) and indirectly and via folks trying to please Microsoft, as it pursued its devious strategy to dump the GPL. Remember the Microsoft-funded Alexis de Tocqueville Institution's attack on Linus, claiming he stole from Minix? That wasn't true either, as the creator of Minix himself told the world, but lots of headlines for some time. If Microsoft is competing with you, you will get smeared, I've concluded.

Remember the Sun Microsystems-Microsoft patent deal that didn't cover OpenOffice or the GPL?

Oracle joined FairSearch the same time Nokia did. Why? Are they search companies? "Their addition is emblematic of the global scope of Google’s anti-competitive search and business practices, which harm consumers by curbing innovation and choice, not just in Web services, but also in mobile, and any platform where Google abuses its dominant position," Thomas Vinje, FairSearch's EU counsel, said in a statement at the time. Um. No. It's emblematic of Microsoft's tactics when it's competing with a company.

It's not innovation to force companies to use old-fashioned business models, to prop up one company that has been holding back innovation in its field for as long as there have been desktop computers. It would like to do the same on mobiles, I take it, and there's absolutely no reason for the EU Commission to do that for them.

Cluebat: people don't like Microsoft phones. Ask Nokia. Or any other devices. The world has fallen in love with Android phones. And a healthy chunk love Apple's proprietary phones. Microsoft is not a contender, unless regulators artificially prop it up by forbidding innovation in the mobile space. Android *is* innovative.

As for Microsoft, do you remember all the dead people who signed letters telling the DOJ to leave Microsoft alone back when that antitrust litigation was going on? If you forgot, here's the Public Citizen report [PDF] on it, and here's what they wrote about one Microsoft-funded group, Americans for Technology Leadership:

Funded at least in part by Microsoft, this group orchestrated a letter-writing campaign in 2001 to attorneys general in at least 18 states that had joined the Justice Department in anti-trust litigation against Microsoft. The group reportedly coordinated the campaign by surveying members of the public on their views on the Microsoft case. People who indicated support for Microsoft were then sent letters on personalized stationary to sign and forward to public officials. The letters used different phrasing and typefaces to mask the fact that they were coordinated, but certain repetitions (such as the phrase “strong competition and innovation have been the twin hallmarks of the technology industry”) gave them away. Not every letter was evidently written by a compliant survey subject. Utah’s attorney general received letters from at least two dead people. The group acknowledged receiving money from Microsoft but would not say how much.
FairSearch is the modern iteration of competing meanly and unfairly. There is a footnote that leads you to this LA Times article, "Lobbyists Tied to Microsoft Wrote Citizens' Letters". So Microsoft lobbyists and dead people wanted the Department of Justice to stop going after Microsoft. Now its lobbyists want regulators to go after Google.

Lordy, one could write a book about Microsoft. Actually, Groklaw kind of is that book, if you think about it.

How about the SenderID flap in 2004? No? Here's the introductory paragraphs I wrote about it then:

I've been reading about Sender ID and the flap about Microsoft's difficulty in playing nicely with others. It's a story that refuses to stand still. For three days, I've had an article ready, and then pulled it at the last minute when something new happened. Now I've decided to just tell you what I know so far and suggest you stay tuned for breaking developments. There is a lot of information, so feel free to skim. The last call period for Sender ID ends on Friday, which means the IETF must make a decision then on what to do about all this.

Sender ID, as you no doubt know, is a proposed IETF email standard that combines Microsoft's Caller ID with Meng Weng Wong's popular SPF. The combo is designed to make it difficult if not impossible to spoof an email sender address. It's also an anti-phishing technique. The problem is that Microsoft evidently -- at least so far -- believes that because it is offering to contribute a portion of the standard, and it has applied for a patent on the PRA algorithm, it should be able to control all of the standard by attaching restrictive licensing terms to their contribution, terms that would exclude GPL software from being able to use the standard.

Sounds fair to them.

Microsoft's plan, which you can read about in full in the article was to patent it and then license it for free, as in no money, but with a license that the GPL couldn't accept. One requirement was that you had to seek a license individually from Microsoft, with no sublicensing possible. Microsoft's suggestion, IIRC, was that everyone should just change to the BSD license. Just like in the MySQL saga. Drop the GPL and use the BSD instead, which allows proprietary companies to have it all -- free code and no obligations to keep it that way.

The problem was the license on the standard was incompatible with the GPL, the license that covers the number one competitor of Microsoft's. What kind of standard would that be, one that excludes GNU/Linux systems? The Apache Foundation killed the plan, to their credit. But Microsoft showed its hand rather clearly there. It hates the GPL. It always has.

If you are not familiar with Florian Mueller's articles on FOSSPatents, I've collected some ripe examples here and here. They are a steady stream of vilification of Google, predicting its doom. If you look at his latest, it's inappropriately titled, "Where's the DoJ? Samsung takes extortionate position against Apple in new ITC filing." [http://www.fosspatents.com/2013/07/wheres-doj-samsung-takes-extortionate.html]

"Extortionate"? Really? He's accusing Samsung, which sells Android phones, of extortion???! Samsung just won an injunction against Apple at the ITC, which agency firmly rejected Apple's defenses, saying it was guilty of reverse hold up. The ITC staff supports Samsung yet again, as his article mentions. Does that make the ITC staff also guilty of extortion? Enabling it? Is he crazy? Or just recklessly over the top with propaganda?

In short, the latest FairSearch complaint is not a serious complaint. And it's not fair.

All of this is to get you so used to being bombarded with anti-Google, anti-Google partners, anti-Android headlines, so you, and the EU Commission, will imagine that where there's smoke, there must be some fire somewhere.

Google must get awfully tired of not being able to clear their throat without somebody calling a press conference to announce another complaint filed about how they did it. And I believe that is the whole point -- to get so many complaints filed by Microsoft and its little helpers that it's hard for Google to concentrate on work, hard to dare to innovate, hard to make money. I don't believe this latest complaint is based on facts, any more than those dead people signing letters of support were actual people with feelings about the DOJ's litigation against Microsoft.

If you agree that this latest tactic of complaining about code distributed for free is a problem, please tell the EU Commission how you feel about making sure that FOSS is able to develop using its traditional model. It could matter, if enough of you take the time to explain this to them and let them know how you feel about this latest FairSearch salvo. Spread the word, please.

comp-greffe-antitrust at ec.europa.eu

Update: A reader points us to this Google page, Who is FairSearch? A tad awful, the info on that page, worse than I dreamed.

And another posted a link to this article on SearchEngine Land, "Google Doesn’t Require Google Search On Android, Despite What FairSearch & Microsoft Want You To Believe" by Danny Sullivan:

Fairsearch, a group backed by Microsoft and other Google competitors to lobby that Google isn’t “fair” to them with its search results, has been having a event today to push its view of all that’s wrong with Google. That includes building a myth that Google requires that all Android devices to use Google search. Google doesn’t do that. It never has. But that’s a good story the group still wants to tell....

That’s not true. Not only is it not true, it’s impossible. It’s impossible because Android code is released to anyone to do anything that they want with. But if just being impossible isn’t enough proof, how about proof of Android devices that have dropped Google as the default search engine?

There was AT&T’s first Android phone, the Motorola Backflip out in 2010. Yahoo was used as the default search provider on that, not Google.

There was the Samsung Galaxy S with Verizon, also known as the Galaxy Fascinate. That phone, which I personally tested for several weeks in 2011, used Bing as the default search. You know, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, the one Microsoft supposedly couldn’t cut deals with device makers or carriers to be the default on Android devices.

That happened because of a deal between Microsoft and probably Verizon (rather than Samsung; Microsoft and Verizon have done default search deals for mobile before). Nor was there any way to change the default away from Bing, if you were so inclined....

If Microsoft’s consultant putting out false facts isn’t bad enough, FairSearch makes it worse by reporting the error as being true and not picking up the correction that Athey later makes after a Google spokesperson in the audience calls her out on it. In fact, FairSearch even turns things to make it seem like Google was confirming what Athey said.

Read the whole article about a public conference where the false facts were told. It's nauseating enough, all right. But why would FairSearch repeat something publicly known not to be so?

This is all so, so wrong.

Update 2: A reader says his first Android phone was an LG Vortex from Verizon, and it too had Bing instead of Google Search and there was no way to change it. Here's a proof url that his memory is correct. Another reader says his toddler uses a Nabi Jr., which is an Android tablet for children, and it has no Google Apps at all and no PlayStore. Here's a picture of it. It's adorable. And it can also be used for other things too, as a baby monitor, for example, speaking of innovation:

Plug-and-Play Accessories: The nabi Jr. is your baby’s first electronic with its baby monitor accessory. It’s also amazing for make-believe with its innovative plug-and-play accessories that convert the nabi Jr. into a cash register, karaoke machine, game controller and digital pet!

The educational entertainment system that is so much more than a toy! For children ages 0-5, nabi Jr. is the world’s first full-featured Android tablet for kids for only $99. Powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra 1 GHz, dual-core processor, 4 GB storage, a 5-inch, high-resolution (800 X 480), capacitive touch screen and rotating front and back camera, the nabi Jr. is a breakthrough in a category filled with low-quality toys.

Here's another Android kids tablet, Kurio, which if you read the complaints on the Amazon page indicates that Kurio does not give you access to Google's Android market. Kurio has its own app store, which gives the lie to yet another FairSearch accusation.

Another reader notes that HP's Zeen tablets run Android, but there's no GMail and no Android Market and no Google Search and no YouTube app, because it uses Yahoo instead, and Yahoo is Bing:

...[T]he stock Android homescreen has been totally removed in favor of the TouchSmart UI. As we'd guessed, there's also no Gmail app or Market access, although there is a homegrown email client and a fair bit of integration with Yahoo services like Mail and Messenger. Facebook is also preloaded, and the screenshot shows apps for 60 Minutes, MSNBC, and Dreamworks, so it looks like there'll be some video action going on -- and that Barnes & Noble logo all but confirms the Nook compatibility our previous tipsters had mentioned.

Update 3: Another reader informs me that Viewsonic released the Viewsonic G Tablet a few years ago. This product only had the Google Search engine by default and did not include the rest of the Google apps. Instead this had a custom UI that resulted in critical reviews, and had a custom application store provided by Handango. The website detailing the applications for the viewsonic tablet now recommends taking a look at the Amazon App store instead.

Update 4: Here is a Wikipedia page listing Android devices. I am starting to go down the list. The very first one, the Acer beTouch E110, doesn't have the Android Market, for which is was criticized. So obviously, the complaint that vendors are forced to include it is wrong.

The next on the list, the Acer beTouch E400, supports Native Microsoft Exchange Server. In fact, this review by CNET wrote, "Even though it's an Android phone rather than Windows Mobile -- soon to be renamed Windows Phone 7 Series -- it's packed with Microsoft integration for the businessman about town."

The ASUS PadFone's main selling point was that apps could dynamically switch between the phone and the tablet, but the Google apps included couldn't do when the phone was first released:

With the Android build (IML74K.CHT_PadFone-9.18.8.2_CHT_9.0.33-0) shipped with our retail unit, only the handful of pre-loaded apps got Dynamic Switching working: People, Messaging, Dialer, Camera, Browser, Calendar, Supernote, Clock, Email, File Manager, Gallery and Video Player.

This list may seem to have the basics covered and it's easy to impress your friends with the seamless video playback in the default video player, but trust us, this is far from sufficient when you consider how all other apps slap you in the face with this painful message: "Application does not support dynamic display switching and has been closed." The black list includes pretty much all Google services (e.g., Maps, Gmail, Play services, Movie Studio and YouTube)...

Given the supposedly tight relationship between ASUS and Google, we were surprised by the severe incompatibility with Google services, so our assumption is that ASUS had to rush this product out ahead of Computex. On the bright side, ASUS told us this is something it's constantly honing, so here's hoping the OTA update coming this month adds more apps to the list.

Incompatibiillty with Google services implies that Google wasn't forcing ASUS's hand at all.

The HTC Legend, according to this review allowed loading apps outside of the Android Market: "You can install apps outside from the Market if you allow your phone to accept unknown app installation. All these possible without the need of jail breaking and other warranty defying ways."

As for the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, it has Samsung features, as this review by PC Magazine highlights:

The Tab 3 8.0 is running the latest Android 4.2.2 "Jelly Bean," which already gives it a leg up on most tablets that are still stuck on 4.1.2. Samsung is relentless when it comes to its Android skin TouchWiz, but while purists might cry out, the modifications here don't really get in the way and are, for the most part, pretty useful. You get the usual bevy of pre-loaded apps and Samsung tie-ins. These include ChatOn, Samsung's chat service; Samsung's app, game, and music stores; Group Play and Samsung Link for sharing between Samsung devices; S Planner, S Translator, and S Voice; and various other apps and services.
Those are, obviously, not Google apps or services.

Update 5: There are two other examples of people using the Android Base layer and completely creating a new system on top.

The first example is the Mozilla Firefox OS. This already has two devices that are going to be publicly available. These devices are the ZTE Open and Alcatel One Touch Fire. Firefox OS has a clear basis on Android, as you can see from because the Mozilla Developer Network for Firefox OS, which has a porting guide that states that that Firefox OS is derived from the Android kernel.

The other example is the Digia product called "Boot to Qt" where the Android base layer is left intact, but the rest of the system is removed. There is a bit more detail on this from the Qt Blog post entitled "Introducing Boot to Qt – A Technology Preview."


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