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Emails reveal manager admitting that his firm uses Android compatibility "as a club" against competitors

Google Inc.'s (GOOG) day in court with Skyhook, Inc. took a decidedly ugly turn this week when the court published internal emails from Google's ranks.

In one juicy snippet Android Open-Source & Compatibility Program Manager Dan Morrill writes, "[W]e are using compatibility as a club to make them [Android hardware partners] do things we want."

I.  Google -- Not So Open

If several angry small service providers are to believed, Android is as closed as the legendary Apple, Inc. (AAPLiOS closed garden or worse.  The disgruntled firms claim that Google wields compatibility as a sword to crush rivals while maintaining a public image that it's "open".

In Skyhook's case the company signed a deal in April with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (005930) and Motorola Mobility Solutions, Inc. (MMI) to put its location-aware services on their devices.  The company made a unique product that offered advanced location tracking employing a mix of GPS, cell towers, and Wi-Fi signals to pinpoint a user's exact location.  The deal would have been a blockbuster opportunity for the small, enterprising company.

That's when Google stepped in.

Recalls CEO Ted Morgan, "After we announced our deal with Motorola, Google went crazy."

Google, upset about the threat to its own service, reportedly threatened its hardware partners by opening investigations into their compatibility compliance, which could lead to them being unable to make and sell new or existing Android handsets.  Both companies meekly bowed to Google's threats, severing their contracts with Skyhook in July.

II. Smacked With a Lawsuit

Outraged, Skyhook filed suit in Massachusetts Superior Court.

But there's more to the story.  The emails reveal that much like Apple, Google's fundamental argument for disallowing third party competitors was that they would offer inferior or confusing alternatives to customers.

Steve Lee, an Android product manager, ordered tests conducted which showed Google's own free service worked better than Skyhook's in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Mr. Lee wrote an email to fellow managers warning that letting Skyhook continue to operate endangered Google's own operations.

He said that even though he believed evidence showed Google's own service to be superior, that the Motorola and Samsung contracts might convince other phone makers otherwise.  They might ditch Google's free service for Skyhook.  He writes, "That would be awful for Google because it will cut off our ability to continue collecting data to maintain and improve our location database."

III. Mountain View Giant Covers Its Tracks Carefully

Clearly Google's management grew concerned that their email conversations might get pulled into court as their efforts to kill Skyhook stepped up.  Patrick Brady, a partner manager at Google, replied to a colleague offering to send him some details on Skyhook, stating, "PLEASE DO NOT! Thread-kill and talk to me off-line with any questions."

Due to Google's apparent efforts to cover its tracks -- a lesson perhaps learned by the Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) blockbuster federal court case of a decade prior -- there's less concrete proof that Google employees were willfully abusing their dominant position.

But in crushing Skyhook, this appears to be exactly what happened -- regardless of their intentions.

Perhaps the greatest irony in the case is that Apple, often demonized as a closed, totalitarian device maker, actually treated Skyhook with greater respect.  While Apple reportedly was not fond of Skyhook's technology popping up on its devices in first party form, it appreciated the potential of the technology and licensed in for use in the iPhone and iPad.  Apple appears to be Skyhook's primary source of revenue, after Google crushed the pending Android deals. 

If Skyhook's sob story is to be believed, one has to wonder how much farther from reality Google's public image of openness could be.  The company is accused of abusing its dominant position to crush small foes and maintain a closed garden.  And that's not to mention the fact that the latest build of its "open source" operating system is closed source.  What is happening to Google?



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Simple...
By sviola on 5/9/2011 4:52:33 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
If Skyhook's sob story is to be believed, one has to wonder how much farther from reality Google's public image of openness could be. The company is accused of abusing its dominant position to crush small foes and maintain a closed garden. And that's not to mention the fact that the latest build of its "open source" operating system is closed source. What is happening to Google?


The same that happens with most people/companies when they are in a position of power/advantage: they do everything not to lose that position.




RE: Simple...
By kleinma on 5/9/2011 5:04:58 PM , Rating: 5
See this is why MS won the OS wars of yester-year...

They did bundle certain softwares into the OS, and they did tend to crush competition, but they at least allowed the competition to actually compete. They did allow you to go ahead and install whatever the hell you wanted, even if the OS already had something that did that thing.

I only hope Windows 8 runs on phones and they churn Win7phone into that.

I have an android phone, why doesn't google give a shit about Verizon and/or Motorola preinstalling crap on my phone that I don't want, can't remove, can't prevent from running in the background. Skype, CityID, Frigging BLOCKBUSTER??? are you joking? Games like madden and need for speed. Apps like VZNavigator that are paid services I don't subscribe to that run on their own in the background all the time. What is up with that google?


RE: Simple...
By FaaR on 5/10/2011 4:03:57 PM , Rating: 2
Crapware on the phone and other stuff that can't be deleted is why I bought an iPhone and not some android headset last christmas. I had enough of shit like that with my previous Nokia and Sony Ericsson handsets that all came with pre-installed themes, backgrounds, screen savers, games or even videos that could not be deleted and just sat there uselessly and consumed flash storage space.

One of these phones had no less than three (!) buttons on the handset pre-programmed to launch the service provider's website (on MY dime of course, as data traffic was uber expensive back then), and as expected that "feature" could not be turned off. If I jammed the phone down my pants pocket carelessly, next time I pulled it up again there'd be flashing GIFs galore announcing new fabulous deals and offers blinking back at me. No more of that now!

Plus, Apple has traditionally supported each iPhone generation for 2 years, if not more, adding new features and functionality if the hardware handles it. Android support post-purchase is spotty and erratic to put it mildly, as is security updates and bug fixes. Apple wins here too, even though you have to use the monumental pile of crap that is iTunes to actually deliver the update to the phone...

Now, Apple's not perfect (witness: iTunes, quicktime and so on), and the iPhone's not perfect either; I detest the on-screen keyboard for example: it sucks, actually exiting an app requires too much fiddling, and iOS won't remember my home private wifi network; I have to type in the name and password every time I want to use it, and so on. But it's still preferable to android, IMO. Plus Apple's hardware just blows everything else out of the water, glass and steel beats flimsy plastic any day of the week.

Dunno windows phone 7, maybe that's a decent OS, I've never actually used it, but there's not much app support for it, and the graphics hardware microsoft supports is crap compared to PowerVR, and there's too many physical buttons on the front face of the phone. One's enough. :P


RE: Simple...
By Alexvrb on 5/11/2011 10:59:19 PM , Rating: 2
One is enough? Just like for mice, eh? Other than that, I agree with some of your sentiment regarding preinstalled crapware.


RE: Simple...
By Azethoth on 5/13/2011 1:04:57 AM , Rating: 2
"iOS won't remember my home private wifi network"

Mmm, it does remember mine. I have id broadcast turned off and WPA2 encryption on.

There is an issue in setup though where if you first connect to it when id is broadcast then change that to off it will not notice the change and fail to connect. You need to turn on plane mode for a bit and tell it to forget that network. Or you can change the name to accomplish the same thing.


RE: Simple...
By Lerianis on 5/12/2011 4:39:22 AM , Rating: 2
Not always.... I remember that Microsoft got caught putting certain 'hooks' into Windows 3.0 that if they were run on anything but MS-DOS, Windows became exceptionally crash prone.


RE: Simple...
By jtemplin on 5/9/2011 8:05:22 PM , Rating: 3
Something about absolute power...


RE: Simple...
By priusone on 5/10/2011 2:44:12 AM , Rating: 2
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

-John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton


RE: Simple...
By paydirt on 5/10/2011 9:46:28 AM , Rating: 2
Did the dude really have five names as his name?!?!


RE: Simple...
By InfinityzeN on 5/10/2011 10:01:39 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Simple...
By stimudent on 5/10/2011 10:40:47 AM , Rating: 2
Just another day of ethics violations from the big tech companies. It's a draw between Microsoft and Intel as to who has the best ethics violations handbook. It looks like Google is catching up.


We have all been here before
By Tony Swash on 5/9/2011 5:29:22 PM , Rating: 1
RE: We have all been here before
By Pirks on 5/9/2011 6:14:05 PM , Rating: 2
Who is this Kontra guy? Does he have a real name? Who he works for and what business is he in? The blog is interesting but zero info about the author. Maybe it's an Apple marketing outlet disguised as a blog or something... I'd be careful when going there. Suspicious and fishy. 'Cause he's hiding who he is.


RE: We have all been here before
By Tony Swash on 5/9/11, Rating: -1
RE: We have all been here before
By theapparition on 5/9/2011 8:25:02 PM , Rating: 2
Forgot to include Apple cutting the legal legs from anyone who dared make hardware that was OSx compatible.

This is business, it goes back far, far earlier than Rockefeller. But by cutting two snippets from MS and Googgle to advance your own agenda is.....well you being you.


RE: We have all been here before
By Samus on 5/9/2011 9:18:43 PM , Rating: 2
This has all happened before, and it will happen again, and again, and again, and again, and again....


By snakeInTheGrass on 5/9/2011 11:16:28 PM , Rating: 2
Apple makes all the rules on its platform, deciding what is allowable in its (Steve's?) eyes. Google does that too, but also collects and uses as much of your personal information for non-stop advertising while allowing crapware installs on Android devices, because Android users are 'the product', as consumers are generally called in the advertising industry.

I personally know which walled garden I prefer - the one that isn't full of crap. For Google execs like Gundotra to sit there spewing about the evil of Apple (1984!) is just rich. Yeah, somehow Google is an improvement. Lol.

That's not to say Apple doesn't strongarm and do whatever it wants, it's just that the inevitable side effect of the competing business model of a licensed OS across multiple hardware vendors always seems to involve those manufacturers trying to make up their thin margins by selling 'space' in their installs for crap. And of course since Google isn't charging for the OS, they need to make it up with more ads, which guarantees their #1 priority is lots of adware / data mining of the users as well.


RE: We have all been here before
By Tony Swash on 5/10/2011 12:29:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Forgot to include Apple cutting the legal legs from anyone who dared make hardware that was OSx compatible.

This is business, it goes back far, far earlier than Rockefeller. But by cutting two snippets from MS and Googgle to advance your own agenda is.....well you being you.


Yeah - so Sony should allow PS3 clones, Microsoft should allow Xbox clones, BMW should allow BMW clones cars. Don't be a dope. Apple make combined hardware/software devices. Apple doesn't stop people networking to help each other hack MacOSX to run on non-Mac hardware (I have done that and it was easy to find the info and support software to let me do it - Apple does nothing to stop this). What Apple stops is people ripping off their business model to make money - and why not? Raising red herrings about Apple won't stop people seeing what Google is doing and how much it reflects their claim to be 'open' and 'doing no evil'.


RE: We have all been here before
By sprockkets on 5/10/2011 7:16:24 PM , Rating: 3
Can I sideload on Android? Yes, unless you bought a crappy Att phone.

Can I sideload on iOS? Not without jailbreaking.

When this changes, Google will be evil. Until then, STFU.


RE: We have all been here before
By nafhan on 5/10/2011 9:55:02 AM , Rating: 2
It seems like Tony spends a lot of time searching for little known blogs that support his point of view - either that or he just writes the stuff himself. Linking to random wordpress blogs that no ones ever heard of certainly isn't authoritative or even really helpful.


RE: We have all been here before
By Tony Swash on 5/10/2011 11:46:01 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
It seems like Tony spends a lot of time searching for little known blogs that support his point of view - either that or he just writes the stuff himself. Linking to random wordpress blogs that no ones ever heard of certainly isn't authoritative or even really helpful.


I notice you don't actually attempt to refute any of the points made in the reasonably cogent article I linked to. The article makes a clear argument based on Google's actions and business model for a certain sort of analysis of Google, one considerably less gullible and starry eyed than many around here, and you haven't actually responded to any of them. Why?

What about Google using compatibility as 'a club' to make OEMs do what they want. Is that not being evil?

Come Google fans - tell me why this is OK?


RE: We have all been here before
By nafhan on 5/10/2011 12:42:11 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, what I was trying to say is: make your point in your post here (you know, that's what forums are for), or if you can't manage that, at least link to articles from reputable sources. I'm not going to waste my time reading a random multi-page article of dubious credibility.
quote:
What about Google using compatibility as 'a club' to make OEMs do what they want. Is that not being evil?
To start with, I always felt like "do no evil" was a ridiculous corporate motto/slogan. Is using "compatibility as a club" good for the Android ecosystem? Probably (at least some of the time). Is it bad for some OEM's? Yes, but again, only some of the time. Is it "evil"? I'd say it's a business decision - not killing babies or something. So, no it's certainly not "evil" as far as I understand the term.


RE: We have all been here before
By Tony Swash on 5/10/2011 2:07:23 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Actually, what I was trying to say is: make your point in your post here (you know, that's what forums are for), or if you can't manage that, at least link to articles from reputable sources. I'm not going to waste my time reading a random multi-page article of dubious credibility.


You can't be bothered to read a short few hundred words article on topic but you do have time to tell us you are not going to read it.

Covering your eyes does not make the bogey man go away:)


RE: We have all been here before
By nafhan on 5/10/2011 3:01:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yep.


uh..
By sprockkets on 5/9/2011 10:49:27 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
If Skyhook's sob story is to be believed, one has to wonder how much farther from reality Google's public image of openness could be. The company is accused of abusing its dominant position to crush small foes and maintain a closed garden. And that's not to mention the fact that the latest build of its "open source" operating system is closed source. What is happening to Google?


It's really quite simple. You spend $$$ making Android, and the only way Google gets any form of $$$ back is when people use their ecosystem on the phone.

You want to use another app? OK, don't expect our help, don't expect priority support, and don't expect to leverage our brand.

Why should Google make an OS, then have the OEMs and carriers run with it and leave Google with no income?

Oh wait, they can, they just can't call it a Google phone.

Why the outrage? Those OEMs can do whatever they want with Skyhook, on Android, but not Google phones.

Accept the simple reality: Android isn't GPL and thus isn't required to release the source, and Google's apps aren't open source period. This "open" BS really needs to stop. There are about 10 different "Linux" based phones and all go almost nowhere because they have no one making a standard to build on, and while Google is "fragmented" it still is pretty good compared to what came before it.

Comparing this behavior to apple is ridiculous. Apple patents and design patents everything then sues third party makers of mag safe power adapters for their laptops, sues over the "look" of their phones and practically is suing the world over their damn gestures. They require royalties on 3rd party ipod accessories. They take the concept of DLNA, make it proprietary to only work with their devices.




RE: uh..
By rudy on 5/11/2011 11:27:32 AM , Rating: 2
Why not google effectively did that with the linux OS they used to make their OS. This is the problem with the whole linux model, a whole bunch of people nievely build a product with this whole idea of open and free then big companies like apple and google take their product and sell it for no other objective other than they did not have to build large parts of it so it cut their costs. Then as large companies do they only advertise the good or try to play off of it. Never mentioning that nothing is going back to the original creators.

I don't really care but when are these linux guys going to open their eyes and realize that it is stupid to support these big companies just because they used linux as a base. In the end they will all remove enough standardization so they can lock people into their model.


RE: uh..
By sprockkets on 5/11/2011 12:08:32 PM , Rating: 2
FYI those big companies like IBM and RedHat do all the major linux kernel development. But they benefit from doing so, so it is a nice relationship on how that works.

Google's code is too specific to return back to the main kernel tree, but it is available for all to use.


RE: uh..
By Lazarus Dark on 5/11/2011 10:48:53 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. No one is stopping Skyhook from selling thier apps to android customers. But Android is Googles product and they have every right to make sure their product is not ruined by crapware from the factory. Yes, they need the location data too, but they cant afford to have Androids reputation messed up because of this crapware. Imagine large groups of customers saying Androids sucks because of this. Google has to protect their product.


Funny
By rburnham on 5/9/2011 8:46:09 PM , Rating: 2
As usual, you guys are on top of things with the pictures.




RE: Funny
By frobizzle on 5/10/2011 8:08:54 AM , Rating: 2
A more appropriate picture (IMHO) would be Mom from Futurama.


RE: Funny
By vapore0n on 5/10/2011 8:39:20 AM , Rating: 2
That one already used for Mapple.
;)


Buy him out boys!
By jtemplin on 5/9/2011 7:40:35 PM , Rating: 5
Your Internet ad was brought to my attention, but I can't figure out what, if anything, Compuglobalhypermeganet does, so rather than risk competing with you, I've decided simply to buy you out.
-- Bill Gates, "Das Bus"

% Homer and Marge quietly discuss this proposal.

Homer: I reluctantly accept your proposal!
Bill Gates: Well everyone always does. Buy 'em out, boys!
[Gates' lackeys trash the room.]
Homer: Hey, what the hell's going on!
Bill Gates: Oh, I didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks! [insane laughter]
-- Bill Gates buys Homer's Internet company, "Das Bus"




Do no evil
By FITCamaro on 5/9/2011 8:48:26 PM , Rating: 3
That other people find out about.




RE: Do no evil
By Adonlude on 5/10/2011 1:03:17 PM , Rating: 2
Every successful mega company goes through the same process:

Step 1: Be a small oppressed altruistic company with a good product and have everyone feel sorry for you for being disadvantaged.

Step 2: Become a massive successful company and "do evil" while trying to hide it.

Step 3: Profit.


Not again...
By Motoman on 5/9/2011 11:03:11 PM , Rating: 2
One Apple is one too many.

Two Apples is...roughly 3.14159 too many. It makes sense if you don't think about it.




RE: Not again...
By mostyle on 5/10/2011 1:42:30 AM , Rating: 2
I for one appreciated the infinity reference here. :)

I also think that one Apple is too many..

It's a sad state of affairs but suffice it to say, Android *IS* Google's baby. Never did they distribute any type licensing (ie, GNU or the like) saying that Android was an open source project. Am I not correct in this? They clasim it's 'open' sure meaning just about any Joe can add code or make mods to it so in that sense it is an 'open' OS.. But open source? I don't think that was ever claimed.


Capitalist pigs.
By 90014 on 5/10/2011 12:50:49 AM , Rating: 1
Capitalist pigs.




RE: Capitalist pigs.
By JakLee on 5/10/2011 1:11:13 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, that is unfair!
We prefer Capitalist Pig-dogs.


Simple...
By sviola on 5/9/2011 4:55:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If Skyhook's sob story is to be believed, one has to wonder how much farther from reality Google's public image of openness could be. The company is accused of abusing its dominant position to crush small foes and maintain a closed garden. And that's not to mention the fact that the latest build of its "open source" operating system is closed source. What is happening to Google?


The same that happens with most people/companies when they are in a position of power/advantage: they do everything not to lose that position.




Is this a surprise ?
By Landiepete on 5/10/2011 3:18:58 AM , Rating: 2
This should not come as a surprise to anyone acqainted with the opinion of Google CEO Schickelgruber.
It's completely in line with what I have read ininterviewson this here website.




By jah1subs on 5/10/2011 10:41:15 PM , Rating: 2
In my experience, Salesforce.com integration with Gmail is another example. My boss uses Chrome for all of his Gmail work and I use IE8. The integration supposedly works correctly for him but it has never worked for me. When I first realized this I decided to just continue with IE8.

I have chosen to use IE8 for this because it automatically indicates email address links and website links. It may not be a big thing, but it is a feature that I like. Chrome when I checked it a year ago did not do this.

When I discovered that I needed Chrome to maximize my use of Gmail (and Salesforce.com), my reaction was simple. I lived through this crap with Microsoft years ago and I was not going to get sucked into the same stuff with Google and Gmail and Salesforce.com.

Apparently the executives who found innovative technology companies lose their perspective. First IBM, then Microsoft and Intel, now Google and Apple, and presumably, soon Facebook.

I look forward to Google's and Apple's 10 years in court with the federal government. I look forward to Google's and Apple's time in the penalty box with the EU.

I look forward to Facebook's turn later.

:-)




By BarnabusFig on 5/12/2011 2:17:25 PM , Rating: 2
What people seem to be missing here is Google's main revenue stream. Selling information to advertisers.

Lately Google and Facebook (along with others) have been working to gather as much info as you and sell the (anonymized) data to advertiser as usage and behavior metrics. Anyone notice all those Facbook Like buttons and now Google comments widgets showing up on websites? Well if you're logged into those respective services while visiting a site w/ one of those widgets on the site, they just got some usage stats.

By using SkyHook's tech, the OEMs would be depriving Google of a useful and lucrative dataset.

These companies aren't building these services out of altruism, this is capitalism guys, they want to make more money. If they can be helpful to us along the way, they will cause it's more tempting to us to join in.




Slippery slope.
By lightfoot on 5/9/2011 5:29:30 PM , Rating: 1
The direction that Google is headed is definitely troubling, however the comparison to Apple is totally unwarrented. For Google this appears to be the exception, not the rule. It may or may not be a preview of things to come, and is troubling none the less. Apple on the other hand does such things as normal operating procedure and frequently crushes competitors.

Although Google may be headed for a more closed platform, they are still far, far more open than Apple.

Google's walls are more akin to the fence around the playground. Apple's walled-garden is like Alcatraz, only not as friendly.




By Commodus on 5/9/2011 6:06:23 PM , Rating: 1
You've gotta try an Android 3.0 device first, and not just the Xoom. ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is what people point to right now... if you can find it (supply problems, not demand).

My issue with current Android 3.0 tablets, though, is that the OS seems to alternate between speedy and pokey at will, and there's very few apps optimized -- just a few dozen where Apple has 65,000-plus. Most Android 3.0 tablets also suck, too. Acer's Iconia Tab has poor quality overall, the Xoom is heavy and has a poor display, and the Eee Pad Transformer... well, production might catch up in June. Maybe.

Say what you will, but the iPad 2 is cleaning up right now because it's the best tablet out there. PlayBook is a good idea, but it's half-finished and, like Android, has few good apps.


By Pirks on 5/9/2011 6:28:06 PM , Rating: 1
Well maybe its software side is half finished but the build quality is super top notch and overall the OS is super great architecture wise(microkernel Unix here I come baby!) so I liked it the most, besides iPad 2 which is more mature and has more apps but NOT of higher quality/materials, this is very important to me.

Android => shoddy cheapo build quality + crap Linux based monolithic kernel, boo! So lame :)

RIM FTW!


By darkhawk1980 on 5/10/2011 7:06:18 AM , Rating: 2
The only thing that RIM did right with the playbook was deciding to use the OMAP4 over the crappy Tegra 2. Gimme a Playbook with Honeycomb on it and I would have bought one. Blackberry OS is about as useful as a 1 button mouse.

And yes, I have played with one. I went back to my phone with a smaller screen, it was more useable for me.


By Pirks on 5/10/2011 7:18:09 AM , Rating: 1
Stop looking like an idiot, Playbook uses QNX, not the Blackberry OS. This, and the build quality, are the two pillars of its awesomeness. Android == shoddy cheapo data miner/ad pusher for Linux using lamers from your neighbor "Do Some Evil" Google monsta :P hehehe

Google dumbos couldn't even buy QNX for their mobile OS like RIM did, what a bunch of hobos. And this is with all the money they have! No way, I'm not using loser's OS on my future mobile phone :P


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