State AG Lawsuit Ignores Openness Of Android And Google Play
Last week’s lawsuit by a group of US states ignores the openness of Android and Google Play. In particular:
— The free and open-source Android ecosystem promotes wide choice and flexibility.
— The Google Play ecosystem benefits developers – especially small developers.
— Android users can access apps without app stores.
The free and open-source Android ecosystem promotes wide choice and flexibility.
Android has always allowed third-party app stores, providing choices for app developers and consumers. A range of app stores come preinstalled—in fact, “most phones running Android already come with at least two app stores installed.”
Android powers thousands of smartphone models across a wide range of prices, making digital content more accessible, highlights the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “Android is one of the few affordable phone options for cost-conscious consumers. Whereas many Apple models cost around $400, individuals can easily find Android smartphones for just $100. This has been extremely helpful for people with fewer resources, including many in communities of color.”
TechDirt Editor Mike Masnick noted that the lawsuit “take[s] things that were done for perfectly reasonable reasons and attack[s] them as anti-competitive” despite Android being “the most permissive” app ecosystem: “I kept expecting there to be some bombshell or some smoking gun. But, once again, this lawsuit seems to take things that were done for perfectly reasonable reasons and attack them as anti-competitive. The oddest thing, of course, is that of any ‘app store’ out there, Android is the most permissive around. Apple’s iOS is much more restrictive. You can’t get apps onto an iPhone without first getting them approved by Apple. Ditto for other proprietary platforms like video game consoles. Google, on the other hand, allows users to sideload apps and also to install alternative app stores entirely.”
— “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.”
Consumers have many choices for where to purchase their apps, with many self-selecting into the marketplaces that work best for them, explains Libertas Institute’s James Czerniawski: “Consumers have the choice of millions of apps through these stores. Google, Apple and others create an ecosystem that consumers self select into.”
Google has gone above and beyond to include robust, competitive offering — even “at their own expense,” explains Carl Szabo. “There is no case here. This is yet another lawsuit where state prosecutors are driving forward without the facts to put corporate interests ahead of serious security concerns,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel for NetChoice. “By no means is Google forcing consumers into an Android ecosystem. Rather, Google has actively made conscious efforts to download and use Google’s competitors on their infrastructure, even if it’s at their own expense.”
— Szabo continued: “Google’s Android software gives cellphone makers the benefit of a free operating system rather than having to build their own. The free Android operating system powers devices such as Taxicab payments systems, Tesla cars, and even Peloton bikes” continued Szabo. “If successful, these AGs will make it harder and more costly for builders to use Android to power their devices.”
Consumer choice should be protected — but that’s not what this lawsuit is doing, explains Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Jessica Melugin. “US antitrust law should protect consumers, not renegotiate private business arrangements via government meddling.”
The Google Play ecosystem benefits developers — especially small developers.
97% of developers pay no service fees on the Google Play store, shows data from Google. “Under our Google Play billing policy, the 3% of developers who actually sell digital products or content use Google Play’s billing system and are subject to a progressive service fee: 15% on the first $1 million earned (99% of developers who pay any fee earn less than a million dollars), and then 30% for earnings above $1 million. Some large app developers, like Epic, want preferential rates and want to use their own payment processing system, but that would harm the ecosystem as a whole.”
The Developers Alliance President & CEO Bruce Gustafson said developers “value the services, tools and training that app stores provide and that they don’t expect to get these for free.” “Developers consistently tell us that they value the services, tools and training that app stores provide and that they don’t expect to get these for free. They see first hand how platforms compete with one another and are not asking for government intervention. They believe that Google and Apple care about their developer partners, and the vast majority do not endorse the opinions of the large “developer” corporations that are seeking a free ride at their expense.”
More from Developers Alliance: By handling activities such as malware protection and fraud prevention, the app store enables small developers to focus on what they do best: developing. “The ecosystem around app stores frees-up developers to focus their work on harnessing software to build better lives, unburdening them from secondary activities such as setting up systems to collect and remit sales taxes, establishing fraud-proof payment systems, scanning their network for malware, protecting customer data, and managing engagement with users.”
The open Android operating system puts the power in the hands of developers and manufacturers, according to O’Reilly Media. “So, as a developer, you have access to the entire platform source code. This allows you to see how the guts of the Android operating system work. As a manufacturer, you can easily port Android OS to your specific hardware. You can also add your own proprietary secret sauce, and you do not have to push it back to the development community if you don’t want to. There’s no need to license Android. You can start using it and modifying it today, and there are no strings attached. In addition, Android has many hooks at various levels of the platform, allowing anyone to extend it in unforeseen ways.”
Android users can access apps without app stores.
Unlike other operating systems, Google’s Android allows users to bypass app stores entirely — downloading directly from the developer, reminded NetChoice in a comment submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Google’s Android phones also come with Google Play and other app stores pre-installed, and allow for direct-to-consumer app downloads. Unlike on Apple’s iPhone where a user must download apps directly and only from the App Store, Android devices allow users to download apps directly from third-party developers.”
— NetChoice continues: “Users not only have the ability to access other app stores, they have the ability to bypass them entirely.”
This case is looking for monopoly power in an ecosystem that already allows for sideloading because “Google allows sideloading” and many Android devices “come with multiple app stores,” says American Action Forum’s Jennifer Huddleston.
Consumers already have the choice to go outside of Google Play to find the apps they want, points out Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Ryan Young. “If developers and consumers want to avoid the Google Play Store, they can: Download an app directly from a developer’s website.”
There is growing availability of apps across the internet. “[Y]ou have to think about how developers reach consumers, and it’s not as simple as just two big app stores,” said Alec Stapp of the Progressive Policy Institute. “We’re increasingly seeing that a lot of the functionality that was previously restricted to app stores on smartphones is becoming available on progressive web apps on the internet. So instead of needing to download an app from the app store, you can just pin an icon on your home screen, with a direct link to a browser homepage, and that browser homepage has a lot of the same functionality that you would’ve only been able to get from a native app previously. And that’s a way of getting a lot of that functionality outside the app store, and that’s the way the market’s moving and evolving.”