According to latest reports U.S. antitrust regulators are focusing their investigation of Google Inc. on key areas of its business, including its Android mobile-phone software and Web-search related services, people familiar with the probe say.
And they're looking into allegations that Google unfairly takes information collected by rivals, such as reviews of local businesses, to use on its own specialized site and then demotes the rivals' services in its search results, the people said.
The Wall Street Journal reports that:
Six weeks after serving Google with broad subpoenas, FTC lawyers, in conjunction with several state attorneys general, have been asking whether Google prevents smartphone manufacturers that use its Android operating system from using competitors' services, these people said.
They also have inquired whether Google grants preferential placement on its website to its own products, such as Google's "Places" business listings, its "Shopping results" or Google Finance services above most other results.
"Investigators have been asking technology companies whether Google is restricting the use of rivals' services on mobile devices using its widely used operating system, Android, the people said. One alleged example has come to light in a private lawsuit, filed against Google by Skyhook Wireless Inc. The Boston-based company accused Google of using its market power to pressure smartphone makers into dropping Skyhook's location-sensing technology in favor of Google's own, competing service. Google has called it a "baseless complaint.""
FTC lawyers have also asked about the growing influence of Android and how it may be helping Google maintain its lead in Web search. Google's search engine is the default for many phones built using Android.
Research firm Canalys said this month that Android powered nearly half of new smartphones shipped worldwide in the second quarter of this year-- ahead of both Apple and Nokia.
Its to early to come to any conclusions about the outcome of these investigations against Google. But, the US will be hard pressed to prove that Google manipulates web search or has been anti-competitive in that arena, Android may be more vulnerable to such a finding.