The antitrust investigation (or enforcement action) against Google in Europe is currently focused on shopping search. There’s an earlier stage, but parallel investigation of Android is now taking off.
Comments from regulators and European politicians suggest there’s a potentially long road ahead for Google and many investigations to come. Indeed, a more formal local search investigation is probably next in line.
On the Android question, the EC is soliciting input from Google Maps competitors about its impact on their businesses. According to Bloomberg this includes:
[W]hether Google Maps for phones has supplanted portable or in-car navigation devices, such as those produced by TomTom NV and the HERE unit of Nokia Oyj . . . Officials are also seeking data, such as user numbers, about downloaded or pre-installed mapping apps on devices, as well as costs mapmakers face to produce a mobile-ready app.
Without knowing sales figures or what the results of the inquiry will be, I can say with near certainty the answer is “Yes.” Smartphone-based navigation has largely supplanted personal/in-car navigation devices for a majority of mobile users.
The current Android investigation and any subsequent action by the EC will probably lead to similar action to what was taken by the Russians: Russian competition authorities recently ruled against Google and barred pre-installed apps on Android devices as a condition of OEM access to Google Play.
This will probably become the template for Android-focused regulatory actions. A reasonable analogy is “browser choice” in the European Microsoft antitrust action years ago. Microsoft was eventually prevented from maintaining the Explorer browser as the Windows OS default (Interestingly, the new Edge browser is in that default position again).
Google’s regulatory headache extends across the Atlantic, too. Based largely on what’s happening elsewhere in the world, the US Federal Trade Commission opened or re-opened an investigation into whether Google’s control over the Android operating system unfairly disadvantages competitors, especially around app pre-install requirements.
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