Antitrust sceptics see the Android case as yet more proof that such legal action is just not worth it in the fast-moving tech world. Even if a decision comes soon, it will take time for a remedy to change things on smartphone screens. And by then the market for mobile software may have changed completely: instant messaging apps are growing into application platforms of their own and text-based services called “chatbots” are poised to become an alternative to apps. But it is easy to forget that although in the Microsoft case, too, the remedy came late and was of limited relevance, being under antitrust scrutiny forced the company to offer competitors more room. One of the main beneficiaries was none other than Google.
Since the tech industry does move so quickly while the legal system tends to move slower — particularly for complex cases like this — decisions are often made after they’re entirely relevant. Apple’s long-running dispute with Samsung, for example, produced a list of largely-outdated devices barred from import into the United States. But cases like these can also be an attempt to put the infringing parties under closer watch, in addition to being a formal list of charges to be settled. Put another way: there’s the strictly legal rationale, and then there’s the behavioural rationale.