The European Union is reported to be investigating claims that Google has used anticompetitive methods to boost its Android operating system, following complaints from rivals including Microsoft and Nokia.
According to the Financial Times, it has been claimed that Google is licensing Android to vendors at below cost, while making demands about the placement of the search giant’s various apps and services.
Among the issues addressed will be whether Google issued requests to “cancel and/or delay the launch of smartphone devices” using alternative operating systems or supported competing services.
The current investigation has been described as “informal”, and may or may not lead to a formal investigation.
Google has already come under pressure from the European regulators related to its dominance in internet search, and it was suggested that the Android probe is an attempt to keep up the pressure on the US company as it negotiates with the regulator.
A Google statement said: “Android is an open platform that fosters competition. Handset makers, carriers and consumers can decide how to use Android, including which applications they want to use.”
The probe follows an April 2013 complaint made by a group including Oracle – which has been embroiled in a legal dispute with Google over the use of Java in Android – alongside Microsoft and Nokia.
Microsoft and Nokia are both in a somewhat unusual position in the current smartphone market.
Microsoft is one of the only companies commercially licensing an operating system for smartphones, charging a licence fee, rather than supporting a more open model similar to Android and potential new entrants such as Tizen and Firefox OS.
And Nokia is one of only a handful of smartphone vendors that do not have an Android device in their portfolios – Apple and BlackBerry being the only rivals in a similar position, although they use in-house developed platforms.
There have previously been reports that Google has exerted pressure on device makers, for example calling on Acer to cancel the launch of a device powered by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Aliyun OS, with the reported threat that it would otherwise “terminate Android product cooperation and related technical authorisation with Acer”.
And a relationship between Motorola Mobility (pre-Google acquisition) and location technology company Skyhook was also believed to have led to Google’s intervention.