The United States is said to be pursuing an antitrust investigation into Google’s Android operating system due to concerns that Google is prioritizing its own proprietary applications (Gmail and Google Search) over others.
The Federal Trade Commission investigation centers on “whether Google is telling Android handset makers which Google apps they must show on their phones, and how and where they are displayed,” Reuters reports.
The investigation is reportedly in its early stages and may not result in a formal case.
A law professor at New York University, Harry First, characterized Google’s growing regulatory issues as “a minor to moderate pain in the ass.”
He said, “Defending anti-trust cases does take attention of top level management and it does cost money… They could be the subject of inquiry here, or in China, in Korea, in Japan. Google is all over the world and so is antitrust.”
Android is the dominant smartphone operating system in the U.S. and much of the world, becoming the vehicle through which Google’s mission to dominate movies.
By building up a popular operating system for other device manufacturers to use, and later a suite of Google-designed hardware devices, Google gave itself a powerful platform to promote its own search, email, entertainment and other services independent of the whims of Apple, Microsoft or BlackBerry. The regulatory investigation could prove to be a setback for those efforts.
The U.S. previously investigated Google for allegedly giving preference to its own search results over those of competitors, but dropped that probe in early 2013.
The European Union is also investigating Google for potentially pressuring device makers and phone companies to give preference to its own applications with Android. The EU is also looking into whether Google is playing unfair with rival shopping sites in its search.