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NYT: Suit Opens a Window Into Google

With control over 97% of mobile search and the leading smartphone operating system, there’s no question that Google is a power-player in mobile. But is Google illegally maintaining and extending its power in the mobile market? Internal emails just released as part of the company’s litigation with Skyhook Wireless might prompt more people to start asking that very question. The New York Times reports:

A stack of internal e-mail messages from Google, which a Massachusetts state court made public last week, provide a glimpse into the competitive tactics and decision-making inside a business that is crucial to the company’s growth — its Android software for smartphones…Android phones must adhere to a “compatibility” standard determined by Google. In an e-mail on Aug. 6, 2010, Dan Morrill, a manager in the Android group, noted in passing that it was obvious to the phone makers that “we are using compatibility as a club to make them do things we want.”

The article points to the important role location-based services play in the future of mobile and Google’s clear interest in maintaining control over those services in the devices that run its Android software. Worried that other device-makers might follow Samsung and Motorola’s lead by choosing alternative location-based service providers, one Google executive apparently wrote: “That would be awful for Google because it will cut off our ability to continue collecting data to maintain and improve our location database.”

The Times also notes another Google exec’s particularly strong desire to avoid further email communication on the issue:

The final entry in one much-redacted e-mail thread came in reply to a colleague’s pledge to get back with some detail about Skyhook. “PLEASE DO NOT! Thread-kill and talk to me off-line with any questions,” Patrick Brady, a partner manager at Google, wrote on June 25, 2010.”

The entire article is well worth a read.

This is one case we’ll be following closely.