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FTC is investigating complaints about Google’s ‘home-screen advantage’ on Android

Android M Hands On
Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends
The Federal Trade Commission has its gaze set on Google yet again, but this time it’s not about the technology giant’s search engine — it’s about Android. The preliminary antitrust inquiry is related to how Google promotes its own services on its mobile operating system and whether it puts competitors at an unfair disadvantage.

The thrust of the FTC’s latest Google scrutiny, which is the result of an agreement with the Justice Department, comes from tech company representatives who argue that Google gives its bundle of services and apps priority over others on Android and that the company stifles their access to the operating system, according to Bloomberg, citing two sources familiar with the matter.

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This investigation, which was given the green light in the past few months, has positioned Google as the new Microsoft. In 1998, Microsoft was accused of putting up walls around its software empire by preventing computer manufacturers from promoting Web browsers not named Internet Explorer. Four years later, the company changed its tune and settled the antitrust case.

The question in the FTC’s latest investigation is whether Google’s bundling of apps and services is anticompetitive. While companies like Samsung and Motorola can package Android with their own apps, they’re still required to include basic Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps, and Search. This “home-screen advantage” has led a number of mobile app makers to cry foul to the Justice Department, according to The New York Times.

Android is the top smartphone operating system in the U.S., finishing the three months ending in July with 51.4 percent of the market, according to comScore.

Google is no stranger to the FTC’s steely stare. In 2011, the commission opened an investigation into Google’s search business, which also involved mention of Android. A case was ultimately not brought against Google.

Earlier this year, the European Union accused Google of abusing its dominant position to manipulate search results. A separate investigation of Android is ongoing.

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