For all the talk of openness that surrounds Android, just how much freedom do companies involved with the making of Android hardware and software really have? We sometimes take the simplistic view that open source software is equated with the free sharing of ideas, and support for opposing views, but an ongoing lawsuit provides some insight into Google’s dealings with its Android partners, suggesting the company may be taking a heavy-handed approach to making sure that it gets what it wants.
The suit deals with a company called Skyhook Wireless that sells the same kind of WiFi and cell-tower-based location data that Apple got recently got into trouble over storing on users’ iPhones. Skyhook wanted to provide its data to Motorola, but since Google offers a similar service, it supposedly saw Skyhook as a threat and moved to stop it from competing. They way it did so, according to the allegations in the suit, was to threaten not to certify Android hardware as meeting compatibility requirements if it didn’t use the Google-provided geolocation data.
Google emails revealed through the suit include an employee’s comment, “we are using compatibility as a club to make them do things we want”, in regards to hardware manufacturers. Granted, Android is Google’s baby, and it has the responsibility to mold it into the operating system it wants to see it become. What we’re seeing here, though, is a point at which the line between encouragement and coercion starts to blur, and has the potential to paint Google as the bad guy.
We’ll certainly want to wait and see how the courts rule, but what’s your take on this? This kind of behavior from Apple wouldn’t surprise anyone; are we holding Google to an unfairly high standard?