Google is facing antitrust scrutiny in the US over its Android mobile operating system, Bloomberg is reporting, citing "two people familiar with the matter."
The inquiry is reportedly concerned with whether Google prioritized its own apps over those of others, but it may not result in a case being brought against the California-based company, according to Bloomberg.
The investigation is apparently being spearheaded by the Federal Trade Commission, which has previously investigated Google over search.
A Google representative declined to comment. We have reached out to the FTC and will update this story when it responds.
Google's Android is the dominant operating system in the US (and indeed, across the world). According to data from Kantar Worldpanel, Android devices accounted for 65.6% of all smartphones sold in the country in the three months that ended in July. The question is whether Google is using this leading position to push its own products on its operating system (e.g., Chrome Browser, Google Maps) at the expense of its competitors (like Firefox or Bing Maps).
According to a Reuters report from April, Google's competitors have asked the US Department of Justice to investigate Google over accusations that it engages in anti-competitive practices.
Google is also facing regulatory scrutiny in Europe. It is accused of abusing its dominant position in search to promote its own products, and it is the subject of a European Commission antitrust case. Its Android business is also under investigation on the continent, over whether "by abusing a possible dominant position, Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems."
There are two versions of Android developed by Google: Android Open Source Platform (AOSP), which doesn't come with apps and can be used by absolutely anyone; and the Google Mobile Services platform, which is Android as most people understand it. This is the "full" version of Android used by HTC, Samsung, and most other major smartphone companies in the West. It comes with additional services, as well as Google's basic apps. Europe is concerned with whether this bundling of apps harms the competition.
In April, the European Commission said it was looking into (emphasis ours):
whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile applications or services by requiring or incentivising smartphone and tablet manufacturers to exclusively pre-install Google’s own applications or services;
whether Google has prevented smartphone and tablet manufacturers who wish to install Google's applications and services on some of their Android devices from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android (so-called "Android forks") on other devices, thereby illegally hindering the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems and mobile applications or services;
whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival applications and services by tying or bundling certain Google applications and services distributed on Android devices with other Google applications, services and/or application programming interfaces of Google.
The company denies the EU antitrust allegations, calling them "wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics."
Bloomberg reports that it "isn't clear" how much EU and US regulators are cooperating on their investigations.
And in India, the local regulator sent the search giant a report in late August "outlining its concerns about search dominance and anti-competitive behaviour," The New York Times reports. Russia has alsoreportedly accused Google of breaking antitrust regulations.