Google's Chrome and Android systems to stay separate

21 March 2013
By Sofia Mitra-Thakur
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The Google sign is seen at the company's headquarters in New York

The Google sign is seen at the company's headquarters in New York

Google's Chrome and Android operating systems will remain separate products but could have more overlap, executive chairman Eric Schmidt said, a week after the two came under a single boss.

Google last week said Andy Rubin, the architect of Android - the world's top-selling mobile operating system - was moving to a still-undefined role while Sundar Pichai, in charge of its Chrome web browser and applications like Google Drive and Gmail, was taking on Rubin's responsibilities.

Schmidt, Google's chief executive from 2001 to 2011, is becoming more outspoken on issues involving technology and world affairs, and was in India as part of a multi-country Asian tour to promote Internet access.

After the Indian capital, he is visiting Myanmar, which is seen as the last virgin territory for businesses in Asia.

In January he went to North Korea, saying it was a personal trip to talk about a free and open Internet.

Only about a tenth of India's more than 1.2 billion people have access to the Internet, although that is changing fast with growth in low-cost tablet computers and cheaper smartphones.

Schmidt called on India to clarify a law that holds so-called intermediaries like Google and Facebook liable for content users post on the web.

In 2011, India passed a law that obliges social media companies to remove a range of objectionable content when requested to do so, a move criticised at the time by human rights groups and companies.

Schmidt also said rumours he may be leaving Google were "completely false".

He was responding to a question on whether his plan to sell about 42 per cent of his Google stake was a signal that he was leaving the world's No.1 search engine.

"Google is my home," he said, adding that he had no plans to take on a job in government.

Meanwhile, eleven companies with grievances against Google have urged EU antitrust regulators to formally charge the company of anti-competitive practices instead of pursuing settlement talks.

The European Commission is now examining proposals put forward by Google in January aimed at ending a two-year investigation and averting a possible fine that could reach $5bn or 10 per cent of the company's 2012 revenues.

Neither the Commission nor Google, which has a market share of over 80 per cent in Europe, has provided details of the offer which came after more than a dozen companies, including Microsoft, accused it of using its market dominance to block competitors.

EU regulators said Google may have violated antitrust rules by favouring its own services over those of rivals, copying travel and restaurant reviews from competing sites without their permission, and placing restrictions on advertisers using its services.

Among the companies which said they were not convinced Google's proposal would resolve the issue were British price comparison site Foundem, online travel sites Expedia and Tripadvisor, two online mapping companies and two trade bodies representing German publishers.

"Google's past behaviour suggests that it is unlikely to volunteer effective, future-proof remedies without being formally charged with infringement," the group wrote in a letter to EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

"Given this, and the fact that Google has exploited every delay to further entrench, extend, and escalate its anti-competitive activities, we urge the Commission to issue the statement of objections," they said.

The statement of objections (SO) is a document in which the EU competition authority lays out its concerns which companies need to address. 

The SO, which typically takes several years to complete, could result in a hefty fine as well as an order to stop the anti-competitive practices.

Neither Google nor the Commission responded to emails for comments.

People familiar with the matter have previously said that Google, as part of a settlement, had offered to label its own services in search results to differentiate them from rival services, and also to impose fewer restrictions on advertisers.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission in January ended its own investigation into Google's business practices without any significant action, handing Google a major victory.

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