Nokia, Finland's struggling mobile phone giant, has emerged as the main force behind the latest regulatory attack on Google, an attempt to restrict its growing dominance of the smartphone apps market.
Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop unveils the new Nokia handsets at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Nokia is understood to be the most enthusiastic firm in a coalition of 17 that has complained to the European Commission about the way Google offers apps to smartphone makers who use its free Android operating system. Photo: Bloomberg
Nokia is understood to be the most enthusiastic firm in a coalition of 17 that has complained to the European Commission about the way Google offers apps to smartphone makers who use its free Android operating system.
The software, introduced in 2008, has proved a massive success and is installed on almost two thirds of smartphones sold in major markets, according to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel Comtech.
To be allowed to install apps which consumers expect, such as YouTube and Google Maps, manufacturers must install a whole suite of apps that give Google access to a wide range of data on consumers' behaviour, to help it target advertising. Nokia and its allies in the lobby group FairSearch allege that the policy is "predatory" and monopolistic because it locks rivals out of providing services to Android handsets.
Jenni Lukander, Nokia's head of competition law, declined to comment on its role leading the complaint, which was made in early April and is understood to have been in preparation since at least November.
At a recent legal conference, however, she said Google had confidential agreements with manufacturers that allow it to suffocate potential rivals in the growing market for mobile internet services.
"If you make a multi-billion-dollar investment as Google has done in the Android operating system, why would you just give it away?" she said. "Google gets control over the choices of other companies and, ultimately, over the choices of consumers.
"At least a couple of times Google has insisted on the removal of apps that compete with those of Google."
Nokia does not manufacture Android handsets, but does offer apps such as Here maps to owners. Its smartphone uses Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system, which was a late arrival to the market and has struggled against Android and Apple's iPhone.
Microsoft is a member of FairSearch, along with the database giant Oracle and travel firms including Expedia, but is understood to be nervous of accusations of hypocrisy, since its own licensing terms compel manufacturers to install a suite of its apps.
Microsoft's antitrust lawyers are also focusing on proposed remedies to Google's alleged abuse of its dominance of general web search.
The European Commission published details of a potential deal last month after a two-year investigation.