back to article Google's SECRET contracts: Android lock-in REVEALED!

Details of secret contracts that Google signs with phone manufacturers have become public for the first time, revealing the extent of the restrictions Google puts on Android smartphones. In an email in 2011, a Google Android program manager injudiciously described the OS as a "club" to make phone makers "do what we want". But …

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  1. Kunari

    Less restrictive than MS or Apple's

    Looks like one can use Android OS without having to sign such a license/contract, evidence points to Amazon and other's that use Android OS without having Google's services loaded. Try to get that kind of deal from MS or Apple.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sooooo

      Android is completely open source?

      Really?

      1. Chet Mannly

        Re: Sooooo

        Android -yes

        Google's apps (eg Play Store, Gmail client etc) - no

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sooooo

        Yes, of course it is.

        There are some plebs that quite clearly not understanding the difference between Android and Google Play services.

        Interestingly, some pleb writer at Ars Technica also got confused the other day, and got reamed in the comments section by people that DO understand the difference.

        http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/02/neither-microsoft-nokia-nor-anyone-else-should-fork-android-its-unforkable/?comments=1&post=26199423

        Sadly low quality journalism is the mainstay of the Internet.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Sooooo

          There is another arstechnica article that gives a good overview of the the way 'android' functionality is becoming part of Google's proprietary Play services'.

          http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/googles-iron-grip-on-android-controlling-open-source-by-any-means-necessary/

          Basically, what many know and refer to as "stock Android" isn't pure Android but Android (AOSP) and the proprietary and closed source Google Play/Mobile Services (GMS).

          What is interesting is that Google seem to prohibit an OEM from distributing a "stock Android" device and another device that includes the AOSP and a third-party replacement to GMS.

          The issue is that GMS isn't standalone, but is integrated into Google's ecosystem with all it's proprietary API's etc. so replicating GMS also requires replicating the ecosystem which todate only Amazon has really attempted.

          This raises an important point about the various IP disputes that have involved 'Android', namely whilst MS, Apple et al wish to make broad claims about 'Android' the substance of their court cases todate have been more about the proprietary extensions to AOSP.

        2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Sooooo

          "http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/02/neither-microsoft-nokia-nor-anyone-else-should-fork-android-its-unforkable/"

          Without clicking the link, based on nothing more than the title, I'm going to say this is written by Peter Bright.

        3. John 62

          Re: Sooooo

          While I think DrPizza/Mr Bright's example of in-app-purchasing as a tool of Google lock-in was misguided, I think his point still stands: Microsoft is being encouraged from all sides to fork Android and use an hypothetical Micro-Droid OS to replace Windows Phone OS, but because of the way Google is developing Android, Android as a base OS is becoming less and less relevant. i.e. all the Google bits that are interesting to Android users (Maps, email, Play Store, Drive, etc) are Google exclusive and MS would have to replace them. Granted MS has Bing Maps, outlook.com, a Windows Phone App Store, OneDrive etc, so it has an advantage over other players, but it won't magically get millions of apps to fill out the Windows Phone App Store, because developers will have to target different APIs for the Google Play Store and Windows Micro-Droid Store, as well as getting apps accepted on two different stores.

          Behold, BlackBerry did something similar, instead of forking Android, they bought in a seriously engineered OS, but whither the apps!? So they noted that a lot of Android apps just need the Dalvik VM and don't even necessarily need the Google-proprietary APIs, so they implemented the Dalvik VM for BlackBerry OS 10. That worked so well for BlackBerry that they exited the consumer market.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Less restrictive than MS or Apple's

      Here's a straw. Clutch away...

  2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. gazthejourno

      Moderator note

      Well done, commentard. You've just earned yourself a trip to the pre-moderation naughty step courtesy of me.

      If you have difficulty understanding why this has happened to you, please refer to your seven identical rejected posts in conjunction with section 4 of the Reg Comments Guidelines.

      Have a nice day.

      1. xperroni

        Re: Moderator note

        In a way he's right you know, just not the one he meant.

        This is what happens when you base your platform on open-source code such as Linux: Google can control access to its own applications and services, but cannot control who uses the base Android OS, nor how they use it. Though it does appear that the Chocolate Factory is slowly extending the scope of its proprietary additions at expense of the free parts... Or so I hear.

        If this trend continues, with Google progressively scrapping the free bits of Android in favor of proprietary solutions, maybe in the not-too-distant future we'll see manufacturers giving the likes of Replicant a try? Because this is also what happens when you use Linux: if the current provider is giving you a hard time, you can always switch.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Moderator note

          Apple's based on BSD. Microsoft incorporated some BSD code. Open source is everywhere. Basing your platform on it isn't inherently bad, or leads to ultimate evil.

          Buying into any ecosystem without realizing that it only takes one douchepopsicle in the right place at the right time to ruin for everyone, however, is just naivete.

    2. vmistery

      Also in the AC news cats take over the moon, dogs teach pigs to fly.

      Or have I really missed Linux becoming an evil Ai controlled by Overlord Linus?

      1. RyokuMas Silver badge

        No...

        ... you've missed something based on Linux being borged and becoming an evil controlled by Overlord Google.

  3. fandom Silver badge

    "Google does not demand that smartphone manufacturers make Google the default search engine as a condition of using the Android operating system,"

    There is no contradiction, they can use the Android OS, what they can't use is the Google apps.

    But then, we have known that all along.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Interesting

      This puts the old spat between Google and Cyanogen into a new light. When Google went after Cyanogen a while back it looked strange and wierd. Looking at this, however there is an explanation now - Cyanogen in those days was providing all google apps, but none of the placement and bundling restrictions.

  4. ratfox Silver badge

    How is this "Android" lock-in?

    Google puts constraints on phones that use the Google Play app store, and have Google apps like Google Maps or YouTube. Android has nothing to do with it. Amazon distributes Android phones with a different app store, and they can do whatever they want.

    Call it Google Play lock-in, or Google Apps lock-in, but this is not Android lock-in.

    1. eulampios

      not completely correct

      I do agree with you, though, would like to say that Google approval doesn't have to do with Google Play, formerly known as Android Market. This might be true about the Google Play as an app itself, where you search for an app, install it etc. However, I would doubt that too. There is no such limitation. Moreover, one can use GP on even a few Blackberry devices.

    2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: How is this "Android" lock-in?

      > have Google apps like Google Maps or YouTube.

      While Google may limit access via an app these are still accessible using a browser.

    3. solo

      Re: How is this "Android" lock-in?

      Google defends drowning Acer's newborn Alibaba Linux mobe: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/09/17/google_alibaba/

      Google to devs: Fragmenting Android is AGAINST THE RULES: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/15/android_sdk_fragmentation_license_change/

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Goose and Gander

    On the one hand, I'm uneasy that Google is doing more to push itself to the forefront than Microsoft did and its nasty tactics are just as evil as anything Microsoft ever did yet it's not getting a fraction of the punishment or hate that Microsoft did. On the other hand however, Google doesn't have the monopoly Microsoft had on the desktop and it is easier for someone to not use any Google services today than it was to buy a non-Windows PC back in the day.

    I try and live Google-free, but the reality is that nobody is Google-free. If you've ever so much as sent an email to someone on gMail, you're in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Goose and Gander

      If you've ever so much as sent an email to someone on gMail, you're in.

      Not if you as sender don't have a Google account, because you then have not signed up to their ToS (you cannot have a one-sided contract).

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        @AC Re: Goose and Gander

        Don't know which rock you live under...

        But you send an email to a friend on gmail... Google will slice and dice the email... they will then build a profile of you the sender. Why? Because they can. You didn't agree to it, but your buddy with the gmail account did.

        You want to sue them? Go for it. While you're at it, can you spare a brother a cool million? (Think about how much the lawsuit will be if Google doesn't succeed in getting it tossed in the first place...)

        1. solo

          Re: @AC Goose and Gander

          And since your friend has appointed Google as his assistant, it has every right to peak inside your mail to him before putting beside his tea cup.

          [Google: Cloud users have 'no legitimate expectation of privacy': http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/14/google_cloud_users_have_no_legitimate_expectation_of_privacy/]

        2. Craigness

          Re: @AC Goose and Gander

          The Register builds a profile of you every time you post. They have your email address, they know when you're awake, they know your interests and can estimate your education level based on the size of your vocabulary and how bad your grammar is. But neither they nor Google know who you are so they can't associate that profile with anything on the net or in real life, which means it can never be used.

          Try it: send "I like cheese" to a Gmail address, then go online and see if Google can identify you as a cheese liker.

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Goose and Gander

        In that case that android phone is of very little use. Unless you want to develop all of your own apps in which case you do what? Oh, sign ot the Android SDK terms and conditions.

        1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          Re: Goose and Gander

          > In that case that android phone is of very little use.

          It is still a phone, and messaging, and email, and a browser, and several other things. Some want just that and don't care about flappy birds.

          > Unless you want to develop all of your own apps

          Or get their apps from F-Droid and several others.

      3. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Goose and Gander

        Not if you as sender don't have a Google account, because you then have not signed up to their ToS (you cannot have a one-sided contract).

        What he was trying to say was that anything that enters the Google ecosystem becomes subject to Google's infamous search scrutiny. IOW, if you send an e-mail to a gMail user, everything about it will be scrutinized, and even if you don't agree to use Google, they'll start building a profile on you, a la a Jigsaw attack. Merely interacting with anything pertaining to Google is all it takes. This isn't anything new; Facebook does it two by using the Like button as a sort of leech outside the Facebook ecosystem.

  6. cs94njw

    Meh.

  7. Irongut

    But Android phones and tablets are available without Google's apps. Probably the best selling Android tablets are Amazon's Kindle Fire models which have no Googleyness. So his point is?

    1. dogged

      Amazon are kind of a special case. What they want to do is sell online content and they created their own app store for that very purpose.

      Amazon are also one of the world's biggest software houses. I know you never expect that to be true but it is; they pretty much invented IaaS which is how come they decided to sell spare server cycles and their cloud business was born.

      Amazon are easily in a position to ignore the buggy and deprecated APIs in Android (that Google also ignore because they superseded them with proprietary functionality distributed as a part of Google Play) where somebody like, for the sake of example, HTC would not be.

      The truth is, Amazon could have taken pretty much any linux-based OS compiled for ARM and made it into the Kindle Fire OS. Android just happened to be available.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Amazon had to source their Kindle hardware from a manufacturer that doesn't make a Google Android device. Amazon are one of the few companies who are in a position to make their own successful app store.

      Then there is the propriety Google Mobile Services (Google Play Services) that provides a shedload of APIs and functionality. These are only available to Google sanctioned devices. So Amazon had to provide their own mapping services...

      http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/02/neither-microsoft-nokia-nor-anyone-else-should-fork-android-its-unforkable/

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just wish I could remove the ****ing Facebook app

    not signed up to FB. Never will. But can't do a damn thing about it sitting there running all the time and wasting bandwidth with it's incessant "updates".

    (Yes I could root the phone, but why should I have to ?)

    1. Alan Watson

      Re: I just wish I could remove the ****ing Facebook app

      Disable it (Settings > Apps > All, select Facebook, press the "disable" button). Assuming you are running Android 4.x, that is.

      Then it can't run, disappears from your app drawer, won't update. It's still in the /system partition, but then as user apps go to a different partition you'd not gain space for your own apps or data by removing it, so for all practical purposes the result is the same as uninstalling.

    2. Darryl

      Re: I just wish I could remove the ****ing Facebook app

      You can disable it... Not as good as uninstalling, but at least it stops trying to hog your bandwidth and processor, and it won't want to update every two days.

      But yeah, it would be nice to be able to uninstall the crapware without rooting.

    3. Tromos

      Re: I just wish I could remove the ****ing Facebook app

      Can't blame Google for the Facebook (cr)app. I've got a Nexus 7 which comes with stock Android and gets all the latest upgrades - not seen any sign of Facebook or Twitter, and don't want to. Have not had cause to root, but would do so in an instant if either of these forced their way in.

      It's the other manufacturers who add their rubbish and also throw in apps considered to be popular that are the bugbear here. All of these are available in the App store and are trivially easy and free to install for anyone that wants them, whereas baking them in to the product is an action much more difficult to undo. I like the looks of some of the Android kit coming on the market lately, but will only consider the Nexus range for the reasons stated at the start of this post.

    4. Chris 244
      WTF?

      Re: I just wish I could remove the ****ing Facebook app

      What FB app? Not a part of vanilla Android.

      Blame your manufacturer or your provider for that app, not Google.

    5. Captain Save-a-ho

      Re: I just wish I could remove the ****ing Facebook app

      You don't have to root the phone. Try shopping around next time to find a phone that doesn't force Facebook on you (or anything you seem annoyed with). Google Nexus came without it by default. I'm sure there are others.

    6. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: I just wish I could remove the ****ing Facebook app

      That's the phone maker, or your carrier as my Nexus 4 is free of any Facebook app.

      Being stuck with something you don't want from Google (say youtube) is not much different then the crap the carrier sticks on the phone. At least youtube works and will be updated unlike most of the crap the carrier sticks on your phone.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I just wish I could remove the ****ing Facebook app

      > (Yes I could root the phone, but why should I have to ?)

      Because it's *your* phone?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Google does not demand that smartphone manufacturers make Google the default search engine as a condition of using the Android operating system,"

    And this is completely true, what point is trying to be made here?

    If, however, you sign up to their licencing program and suite of apps and apply for a compatibility certificate they make certain requirements?

    If you franchise MacDonalds you have to do things in an extremely prescriptive manner, doesn't stop you opening your own burger shack though.

    In fact it is probably similar with most licensing programs in the world.

    1. Jack Faust meets Mephistopheles

      The problem is it's exactly the same issue as occurred with MS in the 90's. They had a dominant position in the desktop OS space and used it to push certain applications into the users hands.

      This is what Google do with the version of Android that is the largest mobile phone OS in the world. The argument is that like MS they should be open to allow other services/applications to supplant there own. I certainly don't think you can replace all of Google's services with Bing flavoured ones on Android.

      In your analogy it would be like the majority of all buildings being owned by McDonalds and them not allowing any other restaurant business to rent them.

      1. Chet Mannly

        "The argument is that like MS they should be open to allow other services/applications to supplant there own"

        You mean like letting Amazon release an Android tablet without signing that agreement and letting them install their own apps for everything including their own app market?

        Android IS open for other services...

        1. dogged

          Except that Android, the base Android is now crippled and crappy. It used to be workable around Froyo but since then more and more of the core functionality of Android has been replicated (and supported) in the proprietary Google suite and ignored and left to fester in the base OS.

          THAT's what android-evangelists don't seem to realize. Google Android is great. Take away the Google bit and what you've got is an outdated, bugridden, insecure nightmare.

          1. eulampios

            Except that Android, the base Android is now crippled and crappy.

            Meaning of this and/or any links by any chance.

            Just trying to understand what do you mean by core functionality of Android OS? What is proprietary? Google doesn't make software proprietary besides a few of their own apps. The kernel got very important proprietary bits or blobs. Are accusing Google for not divulging the source of PowerVR, Mali, ARM code, other proprietary drivers? Should Google be responsible for this? Good job for a Microsoft (hence a anti-Google) evangelist, but you gotta check your facts too at times .

            1. dogged

              @eulampios

              > Meaning of this and/or any links by any chance.

              Link as requested.

              Of course, if Nokia do out an Android phone with HERE services that's going to stir things up a little but I have my doubts about the feasibility of that. The pundits tout this bit of hypeware as Nokia's means to run an OS on cheap hardware but you'd have real trouble finding much Android hardware with cheaper internals than the Lumia 520, and certainly none that runs as well.

              Then, given the absence of Play (and its associated APIs), they'd need their own app store and apps which have been compiled without reference to Play. These days, even the games tend to reference Play - feedback, maintenance of scores, high-score table, in-app purchases, achievements etc) so I doubt if that's any kind of trivial task.

      2. Craigness

        "The problem is it's exactly the same issue as occurred with MS in the 90's."

        No, the problem is that OEMs don't have the quality of cloud services that Google does, so they can sell perfectly good working phones with AOSP on them, but can't provide all the value-added bits without help from someone like Google. Amazon and Nokia can compete, Samsung is getting there but the rest have barely even tried. Google doesn't prevent them trying or competing and doesn't force their own products on Android OEMs, so it's nothing like the complaints against Microsoft. You would do better by complaining that Amazon doesn't license its services at all!

        The McDonald's franchise analogy would fit if McDonald's prevented franchisees from also owning a KFC outlet, as Google prevents its licensed OEMs making non-GMS devices on the side.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      The point is

      Google has good competition lawyers.

      If they did try to force the issue here it would have been a competition matter - they have market dominance in search. So they quite deliberately do not. It may sound interesting to layman. To someone who has some idea of competition law - not so much (it is the obvious thing to do).

      Well done, google, have a cookie...

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Google not default search engine @AC

      "Google does not demand that smartphone manufacturers make Google the default search engine as a condition of using the Android operating system,"

      And this is completely true, what point is trying to be made here?

      ----

      The point that was being made was that Google weren't using Android directly to enforce the dominance of their search capability, something that lots of people are worried about and may result in discontent becoming a full-blown cry for anti-trust action.

  10. Silviu C.

    "Google does not demand that smartphone manufacturers make Google the default search engine as a condition of using the Android operating system"

    "The MADA requires the licensee to preload all Google apps, and even specifies where they should appear on the Android phone's home screen."

    These statements do not contradict each other. Maybe people should make the difference between restricting the use of an OS vs. restricting the use and terms of use of services. Google does the latter.

    If you want the Playstore and other Google services, you get your device certified by Google. If you just want to use Android, you don't have to give a fig about what Google wants.

    Eldelman either does not understand the English language or MS paid more than Google. He's an academic, I highly doubt the first hypothesis.

    1. chris lively

      Up voted you but disagree that an academic necessarily understands English. I've met plenty ( native speakers ) that seem to have that problem.

      Also I wouldn't put too muh stock in what tht guy says anyway. The hyperbole in his statements show that he doesn't understand what he's taking about.

    2. Justin Clements

      He does understand it

      Read the text carefully "even specifies where they should appear on the Android phone's home screen" - this means that no other applications, lets say a map application will have the same prominence as the Google app. It's a clever yet subtle way to ensure that Google remains top in other markets.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Justin Clements - Re: He does understand it

        I read the text too and I didn't see any kind of restriction for using Android OS. Now if you really want to use Google Play, that is a different matter.

        As for secret contracts, I didn't notice Microsoft, IBM, Apple or any other corporation making public their licensing agreements.

      2. Chet Mannly

        Re: He does understand it

        "Read the text carefully "even specifies where they should appear on the Android phone's home screen"

        Only where the manufacturer wants to use google apps.

        Perhaps you want to read the post again - if you just want Android you can do what you like with it. If you want Google's suite of apps there are license conditions.

        See the Amazon tablets - runs Android, no Google apps, Amazon cam put whatever they like on thier home screen and install any apps they want by default.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: He does understand it

          >Only where the manufacturer wants to use google apps.

          Chet, have a read about Google Play Services.

      3. Random Handle

        Re: He does understand it

        >this means that no other applications, lets say a map application will have the same prominence as the Google app. It's a clever yet subtle way to ensure that Google remains top in other markets.

        How prominent was the Google Maps App on the iPhone's home screen?

  11. Don Jefe

    As a general rule, the only businesses that don't lean on partners/vendors/customers are those that sell addictive products. Pressure simply isn't required to control their customers.

    Another good general rule, is that pressures and penalties increase in direct proportion to the size of the user base and the amount of money vendors/partners get for selling it to their customers.

    Google certainly isn't a pioneer in that field. The easiest example to study is Sears and Roebuck from its founding to the mid-1990's. They really broke a lot of new ground in data driven supply chain management. What I see as probably the pinnacle of their practices is how they slowly boiled their vendors alive. Other companies leaned on their vendors, sure, but prior to Sears, it had always been a lot differently.

    Typically you use carrots and incentivize your vendors with pricing break points: Sell 100 (things) get .5% off wholesale list, sell 500 (things) get .75% and so on. Sears went the exact opposite way and totally owned the US catalog retail space for nearly a century as a result. The Snapper Lawn Mower example is a good one, we'll use that, but keep in mind they did this with everything.

    Instead of price breaks tied to order size/value Sears says 'Snapper, we want to sell your mowers. But we need a lot of them, can you meet these capacity requirements? Yes? That's great! We'll take them. All of them. Every mower you've got in inventory now and for the next 24 months.'

    Snapper is excited and since they weren't going exclusive with Sears they could just expand operations, get the Sears account and keep their traditional vendors too! But 24 months later Sears starts making demands. Slowly at first, but in a few years they effectively owned Snapper. Special models, dedicated quantities of spares in stock at all times but Snapper didn't get paid until Sears ordered them and never got paid for warehousing the spares.

    Really, really harsh terms. Snapper had borrowed scads of money to ramp their production, as anybody would have to do, so they were stuck. Either acquiesce to the demands of Sears or go out of business. Businesses can resist a lot of pressure, but no business can cope if you cut their revenue down very much. You can run losses for decades and have insanely high debt and still get rich and provide lots if jobs, but you can't cut revenue that's been added to forecasts for several years. Hell, Apple, Google, BP, Exxon, none of them could survive that either.

    Wal-Mart took that concept and added a lot more to it. Google is just doing the same thing. The mobile market is fairly well defined now. Little serious work on Android alternatives is being done. Certainly nothing that will be commercially viable for many tears. Google has an open road to put up as many tollbooths as they like. The costs of resurrecting canceled R&D efforts (in any industry) is several orders of magnitude greater than the initial costs were. If you've ever stopped working on a 5,000 piece puzzle and put what you had already completed back in the box with the remaining pieces you'll know what I mean. There's nearly always one piece missing, but you've lost the pattern recognition you had developed earlier.

    So there's little hope of a not Apple mobile OS for the general public for a long time anyway. Elop put Nokia's puzzle, partially completed, back in the box but he peeled the image off a bunch of the pieces and left what appears to be a giant turd in there as well. RIM is Canadian, not well suited to using chain shot to destroy their enemies masts and watch as they starve to death with no steerage. WinPho is, a thing I guess, and the promising Sailfish/Firefox projects are about as far away from global readiness as Tonga is to draining the ocean.

    It's Android all the way and you can bet your ass Google will keep making demands. They can and their partners know they'll have to give in, or die. It's a right shitty way to do things, but nobody should expect globo-corps to be nice.

    Lastly, one of the smartest things Google has ever done was put 'no evil' in their mission statement. Evil is a 100% subjective term with extraordinarily elastic boundaries. The word is, for all intents, meaningless. Furthermore, it's really rare that people who are doing evil see it that way. They always view themselves as hero's, making sacrifices and hard choices for the overall greater good. But hey! It sounds really good to say you don't do evil. They could have said 'we will not become Hepplewhite style armchairs' and it wouldn't be less meaningless than 'do no evil'.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Suppose consumers understood that Google uses tying and full-line-forcing to prevent manufacturers from offering phones with alternative apps

    Ummm they're not forcing manufactureres from offering phones with alternative apps, though. Witness Amazon... so if consumers come to understand that then they're being completely misled by someone.

    1. Don Jefe

      Actually, we don't know what pressures Google places on companies using Android. Your Amazon example may, or may not, be valid, as it's entirely possible Amazon is immune to those pressures or that Google doesn't pressure them, or they have an arrangement, we just don't know.

      The only thing that's certain in any of this, is that you don't have to give everyone the same terms. I can charge one vendor $5,000 and the next vendor $5 with a 90 day interest free float if I want. That's what every industry I've ever worked in has done and I expect no different from Google.

      In fact, most companies have just obscenely high priced penalties for disclosing the terms of their contract(s) with them. That's most certainly the case in consumer electronics, outdoor equipment (camping/hiking stuff), sporting goods, most apparel, high end watches, automobiles, pharma and machine tooling. What I'm saying is we'll never know the specifics of Googles terms because they'll be different in every case and nobody is going to risk Google's wrath. It's one of those sacred cows, that if you disclose your terms that company will never, ever, no chance in hell do business with you in the future.

      It's all wrapped up in the NDA you sign that's been custom crafted for your relationship and your country's laws. No sign, no sell. We even do that to some extent, we prohibit clients from disclosing line item pricing or BOM's to anyone not a signatory on the NDA.

      It's a big deal in most industries, not simply because you can screw people, although some of that goes on too, it's because every relationship between company and their vendors/partners/customers is different. Just like in a romantic relationship, you do different things in each because each is different. There are all sorts of 'in kind' and operational advantages far more valuable than cash. Even super size giant corps are open to barter and trade if you've got something they want bad enough. Money really won't buy everything. But if details of arrangements get out it causes all kinds of trouble, for everyone.

      Anyway, terms of individual deals are big time secret things and nobody not directly involved benefits from knowing the details. You stand a better chance of guessing a 128-bit encryption key than guessing the terms of deals. Those terms can get pretty weird. I ended up with some Fainting Goats once that now live in a petting zoo outside DC and I traded a marina slip for an enormous discount on the computer we run fatigue simulations on, and that was with one of the biggest companies in computing.

  13. Ceiling Cat
    Meh

    Bought an 8" tab made by Polaroid, who didn't bother with Google certification. Whilst it did come with a decent list of app stores that I could install, the ones that didn't seem sketchy all required a credit card and didn't offer free versions of apps. In the end, I wound up finding a one-click app which rooted the tablet and installed the play store.

  14. Daggerchild Silver badge

    Read the article title and thought 'Orlowski!' :-) And bingo!

    What is to stop suppliers shipping a phone with a button on the home page that replaces all of the Google bundling (with supplier bundling)? That way you could argue that the user chose of their own free will (what the supplier wanted them to choose).

    It's not hard to drum up enough Google fear to drive them into the supplier's arms.

    Not seeing any clause that prevents competing apps being installed. I can see the default selection, indeed, but can't the competing app unstring that selection when the user hits its icon the first time?

    There's an interesting partially-attempted summary of Google tying strategies at the bottom of the referenced article. I would appreciate an Orlowski take on that.

    Frankly, people need a complete 'why Google are evil' solid/reliable summary, and I don't know of one.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Read the article title and thought 'Orlowski!' :-) And bingo!

      >What is to stop suppliers shipping a phone with a button on the home page that replaces all of the Google bundling

      Interesting point, as effectively that is what Tesco have done on the Hudl.

  15. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    I don't understand

    I have a Galaxy sII and a Nook tablet. Both have access to the Play shop. Neither have apps on the "home" page in prescribed locations. The only apps on the home page(s) are the ones I put there, in the locations that I chose. Even the generic "apps" pages just lists all the installed apps in alphabetical order.

    Both have apps which are not able to be uninstalled, but that's not a problem since they don't forcefully intrude into anywhere on the user defined parts of the system which is what the user uses daily.

  16. Robin Bradshaw

    "Suppose consumers understood that Google uses tying and full-line-forcing to prevent manufacturers from offering phones with alternative apps, which could drive down phone prices"

    I have another way of looking at this, If i choose to buy an android phone with google I get to be sure of a minimum level of functionality youtube/maps/play and a degree of familiarity with the device from the get go because it meets these standards in order to get the google bits.

    Or I could go to orange and buy some wretched piece of shit android phone that has been mangled to the point of useleness and filled with shitware because they can. (which I would then reflash to cyanogenmod because I can and did)

    There is nothing stopping me supplementing or replacing any of the google supplied functionality with some other apps of my choice but as an end user the "with google" bit of the branding means I can rely on a minimum level of not shit, assuming it didnt come form orange :)

  17. csumpi
    Paris Hilton

    What a BULLSHIT article.

    Man, from the title I was thinking Google was forcing manufacturers to sign their lives away, or at least send them a 747 filled with virgin albino sex slaves.

    But all they want is the google apps installed? The search bar on the homescreen? Fugg, that's almost like no restrictions at all.

    Can't believe I got clickbaited into this bullshit.

    Paris, even though she's not albino, and probably not a virgin either.

  18. David 164 Bronze badge

    I think the article confuse the issues, I think the issue is with the packaging of the apps themselves and have nothing to do with Android directly. Mentioning Android in the article just confuse the issue.

    The issue is that someone could argue that by not allowing manufacturers to choose which apps they install you could argue they are using their effective monopolies or certainly dominance in online video or Search to push Maps and or Google Play and make them more popular than otherwise would be.

    The question is, is Google actually enforcing these provisions to the letter, for example Samsung Fascinate came integrated with Bing and Android Market, which would violate these terms.

  19. chris lively

    As others have pointed out, I'm just not seeing a story here at all.

    Honestly, I think their contract doesn't go far enough. They should require manufacturers to allow updating of the handset OS at least two versions forward. In other words if I buy a handset that's running version 2 then the manufacturer should provide updates for that phone through version 4.

    Phone manufacturers are notorious for releasing a phone then simply not supporting it 6 months later. They can't be allowed to do that anymore.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Phone manufacturers are notorious for releasing a phone then simply not supporting it 6 months later. They can't be allowed to do that anymore.

      That's one of Google's motives...

      Google have abstracted so much into the propriety Google Play Services that Android version updates are now less important... Google Play Services and all its APIs can be updated through the Play Store, without having to push an Android update through the manufacturers and network providers.

    2. Don Jefe

      Unfortunately, that's several kinds of illegal in the US, Canada and Mexico. I'm not sure what the rules are in Europe anymore, but fairly similar certainly. Since I doubt you want a class in GAAP bookkeeping and anti-trust law, I'll summarize (the following are valid for all of North America):

      What you are describing is called an 'incomplete product' and you can't book those as a sale until such time as the products are made whole. An incomplete product is one where features, accessories, upgrades and improvements (anything really) are promised but do not come 'in the box' and are not available at time of purchase*.

      There are some exceptions, safety issues for the most part, and software has a few rules of its own.

      - Minimum System Requirements: You can promise to make changes that ensure the software 'works' with, or with less than, the published Minimum System Requirements but Minimum System Requirements can't be increased without significant version change (which can be free or you can charge, it's up to you).

      - Security Issues: Which can result, directly, in an unauthorized party gaining access to sensitive personal or financial information or newly discovered flaws in government approved encryption schemes that come bundled/embedded in the software.

      - Dynamic data/Data streams/Reference Updates: This mostly deals with maps, but also includes things like a streaming data source changing location/name/format after the merger of two financial info companies for example. Also things like a country adopting a different time zone, changes in currencies and their symbols, entire new countries or replacement of old countries, stuff like that you can promise to update.

      Below sketches out summaries for the above, but note that if the software publisher promises those updates/upgrades they must also state the duration of the update window (x - years, months, weeks, etc... that window can changed to be open longer, but never shorter (unless really weird stuff occurs like hostile government take over, business or business unit failure/insolvency, mergers and acquisitions in which the publisher keeps their current name, but changes industries entirely; if MS stopped making software, entirely, and started making pastries they could close the service window).

      So a vulnerability that lets say, endless popup browser windows, onto your system doesn't qualify, nor would it if a different piece of software exploited a vulnerability in the popup ware to steal financial info as that is indirect.

      The broken encryption bit allows you to promise to fix the NSA Compliant encryption, but it does not force you to do so. The software publisher can fix it, or not, or can disable/remove the broken encryption entirely from the software and has to obligation to offer a substitute (to my knowledge, no major software publisher has ever taken that last step and removed embedded encryption without offering an alternative, but they can do so if the original scheme was government approved and the implementation was properly executed).

      Note; with the exception of the dynamic data part, the future improvements/fixes are also those that all North American governments require the publisher to make. The publishers have to do those things anyway, whether they promise to or not. If they do promise those things they are only saying they will obey the law.

      With those exceptions in mind, a software publisher cannot offer upgrades, improvements, changes, modifications, non critical security updates (see above), appearance changes not related to Intellectual Property court rulings, anything. The publisher cannot offer/promise anything outside the three categories above in a purchase vehicle which transfers ownership, assigns a licensee or assigns responsibilities to another party and book the product as a sale until all the promises have been satisfied. You can't even book them as 'good faith' sales like you can when a customer provides a letter of intent or (varying by industry) a majority 51%+ downpayment or assets in escrow. Incomplete product sales are permanent holes in your books until all promises are satisfied.

      If you never satisfy all of them then you could be selling $500 billion of those products annually and show $0 revenue. None. Zero. 40,000 employees working away and not one penny can be booked until you meet your promises. That will put anybody out of business in a few months.

      Occasionally, a company will do an incomplete product campaign if they have suffecient resources to stay operational during the fulfillment period, and want to 'stock up/save' revenue for a year or two to offset huge future expenses they know are coming (variable loans, fees, penalties, taxes, liability suits, etc) but that's rare. In those cases that money is addressed in non GAAP non-regulatory announcements, but not on the official books or executive statements.

      Physical products (computer hardware, cars, adult novelties, everything) have the same, mostly safety related rules.

      What was that bit about 'purchase vehicles that transfer ownership or assign a licensee? THIS IS IMPORTANT That means that if you offer access to a product through a recurring subscription mechanism you can promise whatever you like (that's legal) and as long as you don't put a date on it and can prove you were actively working on delivering that feature(s) you don't have to actually deliver on those promises.

      Now, some of that last sentence certainly goes on, but that's extreme. The norm is to provide what you promised, even if it doesn't meet everyone's expectations. But the big deal is that 'Cloud' offerings can be marketed as something they haven't yet become (plus you can show revenue out to the longest subscription period you offer) and book the sale now. That's a HUGE thing. The future is always brighter on the other side of the hill with the greener grass... But until very recently there weren't many products that weren't consumables and were actually possible to upgrade.

      I realize that it sucks to buy something then find it's out of date six months later (I'm guessing you aren't old enough to remember when everything IT was made obsolete before you got the bands off the pallets) but the consumer protections afforded by the 'incomplete product' regulations are much more important. If exceptions and caveats are made for this or that then hundreds of millions of people will be losing protections they don't even know they have and really have a positive effect on the value of their dollar.

      I've spent plenty of time in those corner offices working with others to (legally) skirt those protections, and I'm a nice guy with some compassion and value more than just money, that isn't the norm. If you undercut those protections, just the smallest amount there are millions of greedy men on the other side of that wall who will screw you into the grave. The incomplete product regulations are surprisingly well thought out, and fairly impossible to bypass. You don't want that screwed up.

      * It's called many things, but I always liked calling it the Ant Farm Exemption. Some products require either an additional part ('thing') to function as designed, or some kind of post use processing (film for example). Generally, varying laws from place to place mean the 'thing' can't be sold in the box, or the film processing lab won't fit in the box. In those cases, a certificate, or some validation mechanism entitles you to the required thing. Ants for your ant farm lets say. All species of ant can't be shipped to all locations so upon buying the ant farm you send in your certificate (postage pre paid) and a person with the shittiest pack & ship job in the world send you ants appropriate for your location. That's cool. BUT, if the ant farm was purchased in a state that allowed the farm to be sold, but ants can't be imported to your county, city, whatever where you live the ant farm people or retailer (varies by state) had to refund your purchase cost and any (reasonable) costs associated with breaking a child's heart plus a percentage of the initial cost (varies by region). That's actually a useful law. Same with some film processing (especially post WWII many types of film couldn't be returned to you if you lived in not the US or UK) and provisions were made for that (worked well) and now it's true for home drug tests, paternity test, semen detection/infidelity detection (somebody should package all those things together!) and such.

      Anyway, your idea isn't 'bad' it's just that there's a lot of law and regulation protecting you, and most consumers never even know it. But corporate execs know it, that's actually what they're usually talking about when they're zooming around all over the place. Even though consumer tech and software are valuable industries, they are still usually classified as 'entertainment and leisure' products. It's a bit shortsighted to have what are effectively, toys, screw with the protections that make sure all the keys are included with your keyboard and hydraulic brakes for your car aren't 'scheduled upgrades'...

  20. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Considering Google Play is among the worst things of Android

    I don' see how this is a limitation. My Android phone doesn't have Google Play and I've yet to miss it.

  21. eulampios

    Replicant or Blackberry OS and MADA

    But that means they are locked out of Google's Play store and must source their own applications and find their own app store.

    Where did you get this? You don't have to be a member of any org to be able to use apps from Google Play. You can either use a browser to download and install them, or an app. I am not sure about the actual Google Play app, it is also an app available on GP. Moreover, the fact that some Blackberry devices (and sailfish OS in future ) can use apps from GP as well. And what about the Replicant and Cyanogenmod?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big company does evil, what do you expect? the richer the founders get the further away from the "little people" they get, people remember being trampled on when the company declines. See Microsoft, HP and BlackBerry.

  23. Volker Hett

    It's about the Android brand, isn't it?

    As far as I understood the german report at heise.de, you have to install certain google apps at certain places to use the Android brand and logo.

    Does Amazon use the Android logo?

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "using dominance in one market to distort another."

    Sounds like a version of the Microsoft "You pay for how many Intel processors you ship, regardless of how many of them have a copy of DOS with them" routine.

    Note that Google could give access to the apps store and get a slice of everything sold, but clearly that is not dominating enough for them.

  25. handle

    Replaceable browser

    It's possible to replace the Chrome button with something else (I use Firefox) in its prominent position at the bottom of the home screen. Methinks that they don't dare to prevent that because it might just bring back too many memories of what a certain other software company did with browser lock-in.

  26. Steve Knox Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Play Store is not Android

    So there's no contradiction here. Google only restricts use of the Play Store and Google's apps based on what's preloaded where, not Android itself.

    This conflation of Google's apps with Android appears to be based on the premise that Google's apps, Play included, must be preinstalled for an Android distribution to be considered adequate, but Amazon and a number of Chinese manufacturers have already proven that premise incorrect.

    The MADA also does not prevent the consumer from installing and running Google's applications if they do want them, either from an alternative app store or via sideloading.

    So essentially this is a blog with some very good arguments about why Google's MADA is not a good thing, which have been unfortunately blunted by a clear logical fallacy in the conflation of the applications and the operating system.

  27. Malcolm 1

    Is this not conflating "Android" and "Google Play Services"? As far as I am aware you are free to use the open source Android OS however you wish, but access to the closed-source Google Play Services and all associated Google goodies (play store, google apps) are tightly controlled by this licensing agreement.

    It's arguable that much of the appeal and value of Android comes from the Google services, therefore the overriding argument presented here is valid, but I note that Shmidt's comments to congress only reference the Android OS part of the equation.

  28. David 164 Bronze badge

    I think the article confuse the issues, I think the issue is with the packaging of the apps themselves and have nothing to do with Android directly. Mentioning Android in the article just confuse the issue.

    The issue is that someone could argue that by not allowing manufacturers to choose which apps they install, that they are using their effective monopolies or certainly dominance in online video or Search to push Maps and or Google Play and make them more popular than they would otherwise be.

    The question is, is Google actually enforcing these provisions to the letter, for example Samsung Fascinate came integrated with Bing and Android Market, which would violate these terms.

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