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Skyhook: Google forced Motorola to drop our location service, delay the Droid X

Nilay Patel
09.17.10
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We figured Skyhook's business interference and patent infringement lawsuits against Google would turn up some dirt, and we didn't have long to wait: the location-services company's complaint flatly alleges that Google's Andy Rubin ordered Motorola's Sanjay Jha to "stop ship" on the Droid X because it used Skyhook's XPS positioning system instead of Google Location Services, a tiff that ultimately delayed the phone's release while Moto reworked the software and dropped Skyhook entirely. Following that, Skyhook claims that Google then went after an unidentified "Company X" (likely Samsung) and forced it to drop XPS as well -- which would certainly explain why Samsung's Galaxy S phones have WiFi positioning turned off by default, unlike every other Android phone. Ouch.

If you're thinking that makes no sense because Android is "open," well, you might have another think coming -- Skyhook claims that Google's decisions to allow access to Android Market and its branded apps are an entirely subjective ruse based on something called the Compliance Definition Document, which can be "arbitrarily" interpreted any way Google wants with no recourse. Skyhook says that Google has now told Android OEMs that they're required to use Google Location Services, preventing Skyhook from fulfilling its contracts and costing the company millions in expected royalties.

Now, this is Skyhook's side of the story and we're sure Google will make a persuasive argument of its own, but let's just back up for a moment here and point out the obvious: Google's never, ever come out and clearly said what's required for devices to gain access to Android Market and the branded apps like Gmail -- even though we've been directly asking about those requirements since Android first launched. Remember when Andy Rubin told us that there would be full-fledged "Google Experience" phones with no carrier or handset manufacturer limitations? Or when we were told that phones with skins like HTC Sense or additional features like Exchange integration wouldn't have Google branding? And then all of that turned out to be a lie? Yes, Android might be "open" in the sense that the source code is available, but there's no doubt Google's wielded incredible power over the platform by restricting access to Market and its own apps -- power that hasn't been used to prevent carrier-mandated bloatware or poorly-done manufacturer skinning, but has instead apparently been used to block legitimate competitors like Skyhook from doing business. We're dying to hear Google's side of this story and fill in some of the gaps -- and you can bet we're digging as hard as we can for more info. Stay tuned, kids.

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