Google faces new antitrust lawsuit over Google Play Store feesA state AG lawsuit brings echoes of the Epic v. Apple case

07 July 2021

On Wednesday, a coalition of state attorneys general launched a new antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the search giant of abusing its control of the Android app store, as reported by Bloomberg.

The lawsuit, filed by 36 states and Washington, DC, in California federal court, challenges Google’s policy forcing Google Play app developers to pay a 30 percent commission fee on sales made through the app. Google recently expanded the fees to cover more digital goods purchased on the Play Store, taking particular aim at a number of prominent apps that had previously been able to sidestep the tax. The full complaint, which you can view here or at the bottom of this article, lists the defendants as Google, Alphabet, and subsidiaries in Ireland and Asia.

“It’s strange that a group of state attorneys general chose to file a lawsuit attacking a system that provides more openness and choice than others,” Google wrote in a blog post responding to the lawsuit. “This complaint mimics a similarly meritless lawsuit filed by the large app developer Epic Games, which has benefitted from Android’s openness by distributing its Fortnite app outside of Google Play.”

In August, Fortnite developer Epic Games sued Google on similar grounds, claiming that the company’s practices have raised prices for consumers online, although the lawsuit was largely overshadowed by Epic’s parallel case against Apple and its App Store. Still, the state AGs’ lawsuit is likely to have more force, coming from designated state-level regulators.

The lawsuit comes amid mounting federal pressure on Google, which is already facing three federal antitrust lawsuits, including an ongoing Justice Department case accusing the company of monopoly practices in search advertising.

Android has typically been seen as less of an antitrust threat than Apple’s iOS, since it does not require Google Play as the sole source of software on the phone. However, the growing pressure on Apple has called many aspects of the Play Store’s fee structure into question.

In recent hearings, lawmakers and regulators have repeatedly questioned Apple and Google’s abilities to make their app stores the defaults on mobile devices, a practice that often extends to specific apps. More recently, Google joined Apple in lowering its fee to 15 percent for smaller developers, a move widely seen as a response to mounting public pressure.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google Calendar adds RSVP options for attending events virtually 
Another harbinger of our hybrid work future

07 July 2021

As companies large and small settle on how they’ll return to working in-person, a hybrid work future, where working from home is common and expected, is beginning to seem like more of a reality. To accommodate hybrid workplaces, Google plans to expand RSVP options over the next few weeks to let users say whether they’ll attend an event virtually in Google Calendar invites.

Virtual attendees will specify their status through a new drop-down menu that is viewable by the host and other guests in the event details. The company hopes that listing how people plan to attend an event will help organizers know what to expect, and presumably accommodate attendees who won’t physically be in the room. While the new options are currently limited to invites in Calendar, Google plans to bring them to invites that appear in Gmail in the future as well.

People who use Outlook or iCal as their primary calendar app won't see the new features, however. Google says the RSVP options are limited to Google Calendar.

Facilitating in-person and virtual work is more complicated than turning on Zoom (or to Google’s delight, Meet) and going about your day. It’s very easy to forget about co-workers, friends, or classmates who are coming in over the internet rather than sitting next to you. Acknowledging virtual attendees means common-courtesy things, like turning video on so everyone can see you and sharing information both physically and digitally, might actually happen without a work-from-home colleague complaining.

It also fits with the vision Google seems to be pushing for Workspace as a more fluid, interoperable space for productivity to happen, connecting products together (allowing Meet video calls to be nestled right next to a Google Doc), letting you @ tag someone, and accommodating flexible work schedules with statuses and custom notifications.

Google says the new RSVP options will appear gradually over the next couple weeks, starting on July 8th.