Google under Investigation for obstructing Samsung's development of Tizen

Feb 16, 2017

Google, the maker of the Android Operating System (OS), has had an anti-competitive Investigation launched against it by The South Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC), to see whether it has obstructed Samsung's development of the Tizen platform to replace the Android OS on its mobiles.

"We are currently checking if Google thwarted competition in the OS market," an FTC official said.

The FTC has already submitted the relevant documents to Rep. Jeon Hae-cheol of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK). In Korea Android is considered a big deal as it has more than 80 percent of the mobile market share (up to January 2017).

The Investigation seems to focus on the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) which both Google and Samsung signed in 2011. This agreement required Samsung Android handsets to have Google as a default search engine and also come preinstalled with Google's own Apps such as YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Drive, Play Music, Hangouts etc on their home screens.

In addition to this agreement, both companies also signed the anti-fragmentation agreement (AFA), which prohibits Samsung from developing its own Android-based OS - Which seems a bit unfair as companies like Amazon have been able to develop their own Android OS based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).

This has raised concerned in South Korea as the FTC has stated that the agreements may have forced Samsung to take a more reserved approach to the development of its own Tizen platform, which the firm was forced to create as incompatible with the Android app catalogue. We do know that Samsung is able to create its own solution to run Android apps under the Tizen OS, without the need of the use of OpenMobile's ACL technology, but has not implemented these alternative solutions in Tizen.

The FTC will also be re-opening the original investigation that they carried out in 2013, which assessed whether MADA was unfairly causing Naver and Daum, South Koreas largest search engines, a disadvantage. At the time Google was cleared by the antitrust body as their market share was found to be unaffected. Now there seems to be a need to reinvestigate the 2013 case, citing the changing situation in the market.

However, the FTC launched its probe into the AFA last May and found suspicious circumstances hinting at Google's obstruction of Samsung's OS development.

"As lawmakers have demanded a reinvestigation of the case, the FTC is checking whether it is possible to do so," the FTC official said.

A Google Korea spokesman said, "Android is an open source platform. Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary — anyone can use Android without Google.


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