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Google: innovation and monopoly

The statement of objections the European Commission has brought against Google for alleged breaches of competition law over its management of the Android operating system once again highlights the Jekyll and Hyde nature of one of the planet’s most valuable companies, which on the one hand is able to create platforms that encourage innovative ecosystems, while at the same time struggles with everyday problems in planning its longer-term growth.

“Android has helped to create a notable and sustainable ecosystem based on open-code software and that drives innovation. We hope to continue working with the European Commission to show that Android is good for competition and for users.”

But there can often be a large gap between a good idea and its execution. It would appear that the development of Android reflects a genuine desire to promote innovation, to expand the ecosystem and to lower prices for consumers, while driving competition, all things the European Commission accuses Google of not doing. Therefore, the argument seems not to be about ideas and intentions, which are all obviously good, but about execution.

  • Prevent manufacturers from selling phones based on systems like Chrome. OnePlus, a Chinese manufacturer, decided to stop using CyanogenMod in its OnePlus One and use Android with a simple additional layer, OxygenOS, on its subsequent models, the OnePlus 2 and the OnePlusX was presumably the result of these kind of pressures.
  • Offer financial incentives to makers of terminals and to operators that preset Google as the default search engine on them.
  • Condition access to certain apps, particularly those related to Play Store to the use of the Android operating system on versions approved by Google. In the case of FireOS for example, used by Amazon on its Kindles, Play Store is not there, which led Amazon to develop its own apps store (although the decision could have been made by the company itself).

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School, blogger at enriquedans.com and Senior Contributor at Forbes

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