Google's poorly-considered broadside against smartphone patents has done little to further the otherwise worthy argument that our intellectual property policies are hindering innovation more than aiding it. But they've also brought out some of the Google trolls, like Windows guy Paul Thurrott. And he's even got John Gruber linking to his nonsense of the day, unfortunately. Here's the core of the nonsense:
Google licenses Android for free. So by raising the price of Android by imposing licensing fees on technologies Android is in fact using, Apple, Microsoft, and others are arguably simply leveling the playing field and taking away an artificial Android advantage, forcing the OS to compete more fairly. Arguably, by "dumping" Android in the market at no cost, Google--which has unlimited cash and can afford to do such a thing--is behaving in an anticompetitive fashion. In fact, one could argue that Google is using its dominance in search advertising to unfairly gain entry into another market by giving that new product, Android, away for free. Does this remind you of any famous antitrust case?
-Supersite for Windows, August 4, 2011
For the sake of argument, let's assume that Google has a durable monopoly in search and ignore that the case against Microsoft was gutted on appeal. Even so, giving away Android for free is not leveraging its search monopoly and isn't likely to raise any kind of antitrust issues.
Back in the 1990s, Microsoft forced everyone who installed Windows to install Internet Explorer and went so far as to remove the uninstall option. It didn't just decide to give it away for free -- it required anyone using its monopoly product to install it for free. Needless to say, that's not the Android situation. Google search is available on all mobile phone platforms. You don't have to install Android to get it and just using Google search doesn't require Android.
One thing that seems to drive Google critics crazy is the company's strategy of giving away software and services for free. Thurrott goes so far as to call it anticompetitive, which is just silly. Free and freemium are completely legitimate business models. Is free over-the-air television unfair to cable companies? Is Apple giving away iTunes software unfair to developers who sell music programs? Is USA Today's free web site unfair to the New York Times? Obviously not.