It’s All A Matter Of Choice

google-ftc-anti-trust-investigation

The crowd of angry villagers carrying pitchforks and torches seeking to kill the Google Beast has been reduced by one…perhaps more.  This is one of those inside baseball stories which only those directly involved and a handful of search nerds like me will probably care about at all…but it’s worth mentioning.

This story hinges on an anti trust case brought by Feitelson Et Al (who is this “Al” guy…and why is he involved) in which they sought to make the case that by bundling in lots of Google apps (like YouTube and GMail) along with the free Android operating system Google was in effect acting monopolistic-ally much in the same way that Microsoft did in the early days of the desktop.

Initially the judge kicked the case out at the end of February now the group behind the action has decided to throw in the towel and not re-file. Google respectfully declined to comment but if you listen carefully you can hear the champagne bottles popping over at the Mountain View.

At the core of the case is choice. Google argues (and I have to say I agree) that nothing they are doing is preventing anyone from doing pretty much anything. In the brave new world of apps if you don’t want to use any given Google product there’s pretty much nothing stopping you from getting a similar rival product and installing it in about the same time it takes to read the cover page of the court documents. The fact that many people don’t bother because they are quite satisfied by the toys Google gives them for free is really neither here not there. There are a handful of platforms spread between different kinds of mobile and desktop devices and most of them will run most of the hundreds of thousands of apps out there.  There are also other search engines and browsers. It’s reasonably easy to live a Google free lifestyle.

Given those factors it’s tough to carry the day by arguing that Google is a monopoly which prevents users from functioning without them…it’s not a true monopoly…and the bit which looks monopolistic isn’t compulsory.  None of this prevents the Google hating cohorts of the EU legislative bodies from pursuing their agendas…but it does make any subsequent case in the US look much less likely.

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