South Korea says Android isn't open

Another day, and another bit of trouble for Google.

This time it’s come under the watch of South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) after  HN, the owner of number one Korean search engine Navar and second place Daum Communications, made antitrust complaints against the American search engine.

The move comes after Microsoft filed a similar complaint with European Commission regulators last month.

The Korean search engine pair are claiming that smartphones using the Android operating system have Google’s search engine installed as a default navigation tool, which means that they “make it virtually impossible to switch to another option.”

They continue to claim that this blocks opportunities for companies offering similar services to compete on a level playing field as well as restricting consumers’ choices.

What’s more , it is said to discourage the growth of the mobile internet market. This is because telecoms operators and handset makers “will not be encouraged to offer differentiated products and services.”

Google is having none of it as usual, telling reporters at Dow Jones that Android is an open platform and its carriers are free to decide which apps they included on their Android devices.

However, IP expert Florian Mueller doesn’t agree, claiming it is “perfectly clear that Android is not open, and Google’s partners are not free to choose applications and services.”

He said that the antitrust complaints in Korea were just the cherry on the top of a very large and messy cake, and a clear example that Android isn’t as open as it seems.  

The Korean companies join a long list of complaints about Google. Most famously is Oracle vs Google – in its litigation with Google, Oracle threw in how it felt that the company limited the choice of Android device makers.

Skyhook has also had beef with Google, taking out two lawsuits against the company. The first related to Google’s restrictions on Android’s licensing rules, something that the two Korean lawsuits mention.

Mr Mueller says this shows that there is “no doubt that Google controls Android in a way that runs counter to its claims of openness.”

He says the business model is “all about lock-in, just like the business models of other dominant companies.”

He claims it disregarded other companies’ intellectual property rights to an unprecedented extent.