Even the market definition (the key to any antitrust case) is…
weird. Obviously, how you define the market will show whether or
not there’s a monopoly — and if you define the market as “the
products that only this company makes” then of course that’s a
monopoly. But that’s not really relevant for a question of whether
or not there is anti-competitive behavior. But here, these states
have come up with a market definition that is basically just
Android. They’re not even doing the “mobile operating system”
market. Instead, they claim that the relevant market is
specifically “the licensable mobile OS market” — meaning that
Apple iOS (which is not licensable from Apple) is excluded.
The licensable mobile OS market also excludes OSs that are
unsuitable for mobile devices, such as OSs for simple cell
phones, “flip phones,” or feature phones, or for other electronic
devices (such as laptop computers, desktop computers, and gaming
consoles, e.g., Nintendo DS, Xbox, PlayStation) that are not
If I’m reading this right, they’re actually suggesting that if
Google had decided not to license its OS, and not to let
competing device manufacturers build their own competing phones,
then they would have less of an antitrust case against Google.
And that seems … weird? And kind of nonsensical.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems like Apple’s
control of iOS is a lot more strict, ditto for Nintendo, Microsoft
with Xbox, and Sony with the PlayStation. Google’s decision to
license its OS and enable much wider competition, as well as
allowing some sideloading and 3rd party app stores, seems a hell
of a lot more competitive than all those other services — and yet
that’s all being used against Google, but not the others?
What these attorneys general seem to want is something that’s not possible: mobile platforms that have the security and privacy of iOS and Android but the openness of PC platforms like Windows and Mac.
The lawsuit complains about the warnings Android shows to users before they can sideload an app from outside the Play Store. I’ve done that — I actually installed the Epic app store for Android last year, when Epic first filed its lawsuits against Apple and Google. The warnings Android shows aren’t misguided at all. They’re fair and sensible — installing a third-party app store on your phone is dangerous.
Going after Google for its stewardship of the Play Store feels a bit like going after Apple in the e-books case in 2013.