The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the FTC’s antitrust investigation of Google will extend to Android, in addition to general search:
Six weeks after serving Google with broad subpoenas, FTC lawyers, in conjunction with several state attorneys general, have been asking whether Google prevents smartphone manufacturers that use its Android operating system from using competitors’ services, these people said.
They also have inquired whether Google grants preferential placement on its website to its own products, such as Google’s “Places” business listings, its “Shopping results” or Google Finance services above most other results.
Android had not previously been mentioned as a potential part of the FTC investigation. As we currently understand it, Android is not part of the European Commission antitrust investigation against Google, which is further along than the US inquiry.
Google’s control over Android, given the operating system’s now dominant share of the smartphone market, could be a problem for Mountain View. Facts such as those underlying the Skyhook Wireless litigation might wind up hurting Google in any investigation of Android, even if Google is victorious in the Skyhook litigation itself.
I want to caution that it’s way to early to come to any conclusions about the outcome of these investigations against Google. But while I believe the US will be hard pressed to prove that Google manipulates web search or has been anti-competitive in that arena, Android may be more vulnerable to such a finding.