With the Apple versus Samsung trial hitting its climax, this is apparently an opportune time to rope Google into its own lawsuit, too. You get a lawsuit, and you get a lawsuit—everyone gets a lawsuit!
A complaint filed earlier this week accuses Google of deliberately conspiring with device manufacturers to make its search engine the default on Android phones and tablets, thus driving up the cost of those particular devices.
The suit was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District court for the Northern District of California. It alleges that Google made agreements with manufacturers to require its suite of apps to be placed front-and-center on the Android operating system. It specifically refers to the Mobile Application Distribution Agreements (MADA) and references companies like Samsung and HTC and uses the HTC EVO 3D and Galaxy SIII.
“Because consumers want access to Google’s products, and due to Google’s power in the U.S. market for general handheld search, Google has unrivaled market power over smartphone and tablet manufacturers,” says the suit. It also suggests that Android devices would be cheaper if manufacturers didn't have to pay Google for better positioning in the market and that users would have more search options if it weren't for the embedded Google search integration. "[Consumers] do not know how to switch, nor will they go to the trouble of switching, the default search engine on their devices."
A Google spokesperson sent out a brief statement on the matter. "Anyone can use Android without Google and anyone can use Google without Android. Since Android's introduction, greater competition in smartphones has given consumers more choices at lower prices."
The lawsuit comes at an interesting time considering the fact that the next wave of low-end devices meant to help bring smartphones to emerging markets run Android. Granted, not all of them were developed in conjunction with Google—Nokia's X phone, for instance, is a completely independent venture. However, companies like HTC and Samsung do offer a myriad of sub-$200 devices that come standard with Google's app offerings.
It'll be interesting to see how this lawsuit pans out. Android is an open source mobile operating system, but in order for Google to stay relevant is has to be a part of the process in one way or another. The catch is that the inclusion of Google's suite of apps and search engine by default is in practice just as limiting to users as its competitors.