More antitrust woe for Google on the international front. Search giant Yandex, often described as the “Google of Russia”, has filed a request with Russia’s antimonopoly regulator to investigate Google over possible violations of Russia’s antitrust laws.
Specifically, it wants the regulator to look at Google’s Android operating system and how Google bundles its search engine as the default on all Android devices. Android accounts for 86% of all smartphones sold in Russia today, and with Google’s search services the default on those devices, Yandex (and other search providers) face a big challenge competing against it for mobile search.
“We believe that device manufacturers should have a choice as to which search provider to set as the default or which services to have preinstalled on the device. Google should not prevent manufacturers from preinstalling competitor apps,” said Yandex spokesperson Ochir Mandzhikov. “This is why we are talking about the need to unbundle Google’s Android operating system from Google Search and its other end-user services.”
In Russia, Yandex is the largest search provider, with a 60% share of the market overall. On mobile, that drops down to 44% on Android. Yandex also has made a lot of efforts to expand by working with other players in the market such as Apple and Microsoft to power search in Russia. Ironically, like Google, it also has developed very wide range of other services such as maps, local search, and shopping search, which it packages both as web pages and as individual apps to spread its reach in the market.
And this leads to the other big tipping point for Yandex: how it works with handset makers in the country to offer all of those services. Last year, three smartphone vendors called Prestigio, Fly and Explay, “who have been our long-term partners, have notified us that they are no longer able to pre-install Yandex services on their Android devices,” the company writes. “Chances are high that Google will continue this practice. It is not only Yandex or other large developers, whose services compete Google’s, that are under threat, but also the device manufacturers. But ultimately, it is the end-users who suffer because of inferior services.”
With over a 90 percent share of the market, Google is by far the biggest search company in Europe, and over the last several years its added its dominance in mobile, by way of Android, to its grip on online services.
And that has competitors up in arms. Yandex’s move comes in the wake of a series of ongoing investigations against Google in Europe that cover different aspects of the company’s services. Among them, its search business and how it impacts companies offering search across different verticals like travel has been the subject of a heated and complicated antitrust investigation for years now.
Also, app store owners have filed an antitrust case against Google’s Android-based Google Play store. And the European Parliament has backed a call for Google to split its search business from the rest of its operations.
Yandex lays out in more detail why Google’s bundling is not competitive enough, highlighting that the “open source” nature of Android is not actually that open when it comes to Google-based services bundled with it:
“Google’s practices relating to Android have been the subject of investigations and lawsuits in many jurisdictions around the world. Google is the owner of Android, the dominant global mobile operating system. Many believe that Android is an open platform. In reality, manufacturers of Android-powered devices are locked into the proprietary Google Play application store and closed APIs.
In order to install Google Play on their devices, device manufacturers are required to preinstall the entire suite of Google GMS services, and set Google as the default search. In addition to that, device manufacturers are increasingly prohibited from installing any services from Google’s competitors on their devices… The openness of Android is now in a thing of the past.”