Monopolistic Brand Tactics — Google Style

In an article written by Rolfe Winkler, titled “Android’s ‘Open’ System Has Limits”, which was published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, Mr. Winkler notes how Google has deftly won concessions from Android OEMs. These concessions deliver default status for Google’s search for any/all devices manufactured under the terms of the Android O/S license agreement:

“The documents show that Google has imposed strict restrictions on device makers that want access to its search engine, YouTube or the more than one million apps in its Play Store. In return, the device makers must feature other Google apps and set Google search as the default for users, according to the agreements.” (quoted from Mr. Winkler’s article, a link to the entire article can be found in the paragraph above).

Anyone familiar with the U.S. vs. Microsoft® anti-trust litigation of the late 1990s should experience something of a “deja vu” when reading this paragraph. The U.S. case against Microsoft focused on a very similar feature of the Microsoft Windows O/S, namely the “default web browser.” Ostensibly, Microsoft emerged from this litigation with the Windows business intact and still fully integrated. But since the litigation, whether as the result of efforts by other regulatory agencies (principally the European Commission), the process of establishing the “default” web browser has been clearly established as the right of the owner of the PC, rather than either the OEM of the O/S Licensor, to establish.

So is the phraseology Google has incorporated in its license agreements with Android OEMs largely an act of hubris? in other words, a method of reaping unreasonable benefits before the inevitable slap on the hand from regulatory authorities removes the hand from the cookie jar? Sad to say, I think it looks so, doesn’t it?

When activities like this one, on Google’s part, are revealed, one would hope the public will develop a higher level of skepticism the next time one vendor tries to play the “good guy/bad guy” marketing communications game.

Disclaimer: I’m long Microsoft with no position in Google.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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