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Skyhook Wireless Sues Google Over Anti-Competitive Practices 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the location-location-location dept.
dwightk writes "According to a lawsuit brought by Skyhook Wireless, Google allegedly forced Motorola, among other Android handset makers, to use Google's own location services instead of alternatives like Skyhook's. Quoting the lawsuit: 'In complete disregard of its common-law and statutory obligations, and in direct opposition to its public messaging encouraging open innovation, Google wielded its control over the Android operating system ... to force device manufacturers to use its technology rather than that of Skyhook, to terminate contractual obligations with Skyhook, and to otherwise force device manufacturers to sacrifice superior end user experience with Skyhook by threatening directly or indirectly to deny timely and equal access to evolving versions of the Android operating system and other Google mobile applications.'" John Gruber points out another interesting excerpt from the complaint regarding Google's procedure for determining Android compliance, which includes what Skyhook calls an "amorphous outline of additional, non-standardized requirements" that "effectively gives Google the ability to arbitrarily deem any software, feature or function 'non-compatible.'"
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Skyhook Wireless Sues Google Over Anti-Competitive Practices

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  • by AHuxley (892839) on Friday September 17, 2010 @09:39AM (#33610274) Homepage Journal
    Skyhook had links to Allen & Company (http://www.skyhookwireless.com/whoweare/management.php).
    Allen & Company had George Tenet of CIA fame as a managing director.
    The NSA likes Google, the CIA is/was close to Skyhook.
    This seems more like an interagency turf war over next gen real time phone tracking than the free market.
  • by InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) on Friday September 17, 2010 @09:45AM (#33610330)
    So whats the solution? Android has to either support everything in one standard or have multiple standards to encompass everyone's tech? Basically this would create a bloated (and more expensive) OS or more Android fragmentation (your device does geo-location this way with these results while mine does it another way with other results).

    I guess it's a thin line between between closed and controlled vs open and free. As more and more of these headaches (lawsuits, fragmentation) crop up for Google/Android we find more and more reasons why Steve Jobs has a point in everything he says is a benefit in his iOS closed model.
  • by noidentity (188756) on Friday September 17, 2010 @09:47AM (#33610352)

    to force device manufacturers to use its technology rather than that of Skyhook, to terminate contractual obligations with Skyhook, and to otherwise force device manufacturers

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • by bemymonkey (1244086) on Friday September 17, 2010 @09:58AM (#33610468)

    I'm not sure if Google is really the bad guy here. Skyhook's concept is cool and all, but there may be other reasons Skyhook wasn't considered for providing location data in Android. If they'd made a decent offer and provided a service that's up to par, why should Google go to all the trouble of setting up their own location tech? Wouldn't it have been much cheaper and easier to just use Skyhook?

  • by Vectormatic (1759674) on Friday September 17, 2010 @10:03AM (#33610512)

    and everyone does it, intel requires you to use a certain combo of intel chips in your laptop before you can slap a 'centrino' (or whatever 'ino is the flavor of the day) on it, AMD does the same, MS undoubtedly has some requirements before you can put a big shiney 'designed for windows XX' sticker on anything..

    Since the base of android is supposed to be open source, everyone should be free to take that, build a phone OS on it, use skyhook, but google has every right to stop you from using the android name on that device

    sure, it goes against the idea that android is supposedly completely free/open, but google has a right to protect their platform, and the experience on that platform

  • Re:FUD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Drakino (10965) <d_slashdot@minii[ ].net ['nfo' in gap]> on Friday September 17, 2010 @10:04AM (#33610528) Journal

    So why didn't Google issue a stop ship on the Samsung Fascinate, the Galaxy S on Verizon that removes all traces of Google search and replaces it with Bing? There is no option on the phone to revert it either, and the phone does include the Market, GMail, etc.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday September 17, 2010 @10:06AM (#33610552) Homepage Journal

    TFA reads like Skyhook wrote it. I'm going to have to Google for a less biased FA. Oh look, here's one. [informationweek.com] Facts minus editorializing.

    Oh, and this [informationweek.com] is a very interesting wrinkle on it:

    Motorola reported Thursday that it has acquired Aloqa, a Germany-based firm that supplies location services for mobile phones. Motorola said it plans to team Aloqa with its Motoblur feature, which consolidates cell phone users' social networking apps in a single, easy-to-view interface.
    News of the acquisition comes a day after Skyhook, another location firm, sued Google, charging, among other things, that Google had contacted Motorola to block Skyhook's service. While the Aloqa acquisition and the Skyhook-Google litigation are not connected, they illustrate the growing importance of location features on mobile phones.

  • Re:FUD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slashNO@SPAMomnifarious.org> on Friday September 17, 2010 @10:08AM (#33610582) Homepage Journal

    Yes, this is a case in which I'm willing to believe Google acted anticompetitively and with monopolistic intent, but I would like to see all the facts first. The charges Skyhook lodges are serious, and unlike the charge over search engine results, completely believable. But I still want to have more data on what actually happened before I decide on this one.

  • Re:FUD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by koiransuklaa (1502579) on Friday September 17, 2010 @10:24AM (#33610750)

    Read the summary at least :)

    OEMs are not allowed to ship other location products, or they lose their access to Google services, the market, etc. So the operating system itself is really open, but the ecosystem around it is "open as long as you do what we tell you to do".

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday September 17, 2010 @10:28AM (#33610790) Homepage Journal

    TFA reads like Skyhook wrote it. I'm going to have to Google for a less biased FA.

    We're trusting google to provide an unbiased view of itself?

  • Pretty simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by augustz (18082) on Friday September 17, 2010 @10:30AM (#33610818) Homepage

    This is posted in the "Know your rights" section.

    A couple of quick items:

    - Android is released under the Apache license. So skyhook and any handset manufacturer, if they don't like the direction google is taking the platform, can do whatever they want to the software. This is the definition of open source.

    - Conversely, open source doesn't mean skyhook can force a developer to do something. Lots of business who want to make money by inclusion in a project get upset when open source projects say no. See Reiser or any other open source bug tracker.

    - On top of the apache licensed Android, Google provides a set of pretty popular apps (Google Apps). Most but not all manufacturers use those apps. My guess is that if you pick up these apps, then that is where google is saying you have to use their location based service. So far these apps are good enough people generally use them, but eventually Microsoft or some other big player will pay enough $$ to a manufacturer that google maps / google search etc will go away on some handsets.

    - Google also offers the Android Market, another natural place of control. Many OS Distro's use marketplaces, update channels etc to monetize their platform. This also obviously creates lock-in.

    - Almost every open source project doesn't let you take their brand with your changes. So if you want to make lots of changes you probably can't call your OS "Android" vs Sense or MotoBlur. This also is common to Mozilla, Redhat etc etc. Mozilla was really picky about this (see Iceweasel).

    - Skyhook is suing Google for violating it's patents on doing location. This includes ""Server for Updating Location Beacon Database". Reading these patents will make you wish software patents were toned down a bit I think.

    - Skyhook is itself not an open source contribution to the handset, but apparently a pretty costly proprietary app on top of the handset with big royalties and patents with no patent pledges. In other words, if someone tries to do location service and to give it away for free, prepare to be sued by Skyhook.

    - Apple dropped Skyhook from the iphone 4 I believe? Be interesting to know why given they had been a customer and skyhook claims to have the best tech.

    - Open source being "nice". Big business in open source seem to still plan on using the layers above to fight for $.

    So some shades of grey in this :) Be interesting to see how the case evolves.

  • by koiransuklaa (1502579) on Friday September 17, 2010 @10:42AM (#33610958)

    sure, it goes against the idea that android is supposedly completely free/open, but google has a right to protect their platform, and the experience on that platform

    This, I believe, is the only problem here -- Apple does everything exactly like Google with the exception that they don't claim to be "open". Likewise Intel doesn't say Centrino is about choice in anyway. Google does, according to Daring Fireball Vic Gundotra says "If you believe in openness, if you believe in choice, if you believe in innovation from everyone, then welcome to Android". Now maybe he meant Android the base operating system, but I would have thought he meant the Android ecosystem -- OS, software, services, market...

    I think what you said is 100% true: Google has every right to stop you from using the Android name if you do anything Google doesn't like. But the fact remains, calling that an open system is dishonest.

    In this particular case I can't accept that they are just protecting the integrity of the platform: do you think Google would have done this if location wasn't a Google service? Would Google really have forced every manufacturer to use e.g. Skyhook if they thought Skyhook was really good?

  • Utterly False (Score:5, Interesting)

    by canajin56 (660655) on Friday September 17, 2010 @12:44PM (#33612296)

    Here's what happened. Motorola agreed as part of the contract with Skyhook, to intentionally disable Google Location Service. Google says you cannot access the app store without all of Android being functional, and that they can't have Skyhook as the exclusive location software, and that it has to have both. Skyhook is making it out that Google Location spys on you without consent. (My Droid tells me how it works and asks if I'm sure I want to turn it on, and promises the info is anonymous, so that's a blatant lie). They also say that Google isn't saying it has to support both, they're saying it has to be always-on, which is false. Google Location Service is off by default on my phone, so I doubt there's a requirement that it can't ever be turned off. Further, my Droid phone came with a GPS Navigator software, and Layar Augmented Reality Browser, both of which show me the Skyhook logo when I run them, and both of which run fine with Google Location Services turned off, and in that case rely exclusivly on GPS and Skyhook data.

    So I'm inclined to believe Skyhook is lying, or stupid. Skyhook tried to force Motorola to disable Google Location Service or else Skyhook would terminate their contract. Google said you can't do that or we won't let it on the app store, since without the full Android API we can't say the other location apps will work and it will harm the customers. Skyhook seems to be deliberately misstating this as Google Location Service being required to be "always on" and always spying on the user without consent (the repeatedly refer to it as tracking data without permission, and calling it a malicious and inferior product). Since my Samsung phone uses both Google Location Service and Skyhook, and since GLS is off by default AND doesn't mislead me, I'm inclined to believe that Skyhook is lying through their teeth.

    Further, Skyhook said another draconian condition is that Motorola should have a box informing the user that Skyhook will be logging nearby WAP, just like the GOogle Location Service does when you turn it on. Skyhook says this is evil of them. Fucking hypocrites, lying and saying Google presents no information that GLS logs nearby wireless networks, and then having the gall to call being asked to do so themselves unreasonable.

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