The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly looking into whether Google forces Android OEMs to use its own search and location services.
The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly expanding its
investigation into Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) search business to include the
company's Android mobile operating system and Web services.
The Wall Street Journal said the FTC has asked whether Google prohibits
smartphone makers that make phones based on Android from using rivals'
It is unclear what those services entail. There is no evidence that
Google forces Android OEMs, such as Motorola Mobility, HTC and Samsung,
to use its search engine over Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bing or Yahoo
(NASDAQ:YHOO). Bing powers some Verizon Wireless phones, while Yahoo
provides search for some AT&T handsets.
Rather, the FTC's inquiry may concern allegations made against Google by Skyhook Wireless, which is
suing the search engine for interfering with its business and patent
In the tortious interference case, Skyhook claimed Google
coerced Motorola (NYSE:MMI) and Samsung to stop using its location database software in
favor of Google's own location database.
Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan told eWEEK that Google
wants OEMS such as Motorola and Samsung to use its software because it gives
Google control of location information on users that is crucial for improving
its search services.
Google is already facing a serious patent infringement suit against Android from Oracle,
which is seemingly close to convincing a California judge that the company
infringed, and possibly willfully so, on Java software used to form the core of
Meanwhile, the FTC's also alleged made inquiries into
whether Google favors its own Places local search service, Google Product
Search, and Google Finance.
Specifically, the Journal said the FTC is gauging
allegations that Google takes reviews of local businesses from services such as
Yelp and CitySearch to use on Places and
then demotes the rivals' services products.
Yelp, CitySearch and others have reportedly voiced their
complaints to the FTC on the matter. In an effort to show that it doesn't
violate antitrust laws, Google last month
removed snippets of reviews published from these companies from Places.
Google, which has denied engaging in anticompetitive
practices, reiterated that it intends to comply fully with the FTC's inquiry.
"We understand that with success comes
scrutiny," said a Google spokesperson. "We're happy to answer any
questions they have about our business."
Sources familiar with Google's thinking claim that the
company isn't sure what focus the FTC is taking because it has not tipped its
hand to the company.
Meanwhile, the Journal said the FTC is preparing to send
out subpoenas to companies in the hope of collecting documents and evidence in
One company that remains all too eager to help is
Microsoft, which will use Google's legal woes -- and its experience in knowing
what federal regulators look for in such cases from its own antitrust suit from
the Justice Department a decade ago -- to try to bolster its own search