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Google defends Android following $5 billion fine from European Commission

Less than a week ago, a report claimed that the European Commission was in talks to fine Google for heavily pushing its software/services on Android. The EC has since made that news official and is charging Google €4.3 billion (around $5 billion USD).

Margrethe Vestager is one of the people leading this charge against Google, and according to her, Google's acted illegally by requiring Android OEMs to pre-load Google Search and Chrome onto Android phones, pay manufacturers to exclusively install certain Google apps over competing ones, and prevent them from selling any sort of smart device that runs a "forked" version of Android.

Google's since said it plans on appealing the fine, and shortly after it was issued, CEO Sundar Pichai published a blog defending his company's treatment of Android.

As Pichai notes:

The decision ignores the fact that Android phones compete with iOS phones, something that 89 percent of respondents to the Commission's own market survey confirmed. It also misses just how much choice Android provides to thousands of phone makers and mobile network operators who build and sell Android devices; to millions of app developers around the world who have built their businesses with Android; and billions of consumers who can now afford and use cutting-edge Android smartphones.

It's still unclear what sort of repercussions the European Commission's actions will have here, but if Google fails to change its business practices within the next 90 days, it'll be faced with an additional fine of up to 5% for its global daily turnover.

The probe is reminiscent of the antitrust case that Microsoft was hit with by the U.S. government in 1995, alleging that the company abused its position to force Internet Explorer to be the default web browser on PCs. Microsoft ultimately lost that suit, leading the judge in the initial case to order company's breakup in 2001 under anti-monopoly regulations. Microsoft later won an appeal to that decision, prompting the company to reach a settlement with the government, through which it agreed to make "behavioral changes."

The tech landscape has changed drastically since Microsoft's brush with regulators, but it's hard to miss the comparisons here. Interestingly, Microsoft was one of the companies — alongside Nokia, Oracle, and others — that prompted the European Commission to begin its probe following a formal complaint filed in 2015.

What's your take on this? Should Google be fined for pushing its services on Android, or does it have a right to seeing as how it owns the operating system? Leave your thoughts down in the comments below.

21 Comments
  • They should be fine for making it impossible to uninstall Google apps without rooting. Hopefully US follows suit and do the same.
  • I believe this is, in fact, acceptable. The biggest reason is that if you want to really sell what most people call an "Android" tablet, it needs to have Google's app store on it. If you want the app store, you agree that you will not fork or install any forked version of Android AND you will install the Google Search app. Basically, remember Cyanogen OS? It would have been way more successful in the US if it had Google's app store on it... and it could come with DuckDuckGo by default instead without the Google app. I would view this as a big plus. Even Amazon, believe it or not, can only make their tablets at one factory (Quanta Computer), because the other factories agreed they would not make tablets with Android forks on them. This is, in effect, _actual_ freedom for Android. And for those of you who say that forks were blocked only to prevent fragmentation... Android is fragmented already. The API test suite, which proves apps can work on a fork, is (as far as I know) publicly available. And Treble will, in effect, only make forks and custom ROMs _easier_ to make in the long run allowing more competition in the future from alternate Androids. This also means that a Microsoft version of Android might be in the running...
  • Well if you think that Google will invest billions of dollars in Android without any chance to return the money through its services, then yes it may be the freedom. But to be more realistic the opposite will happen. As Google can't earn the money from its services it can only go after one or two tactics to earn the money - close completely Android and charge OEMs to use it, or to turn to Apple like model and release their own phones. So yes, it will be less freedom. But I can't say it is bad at all. I think that software should be charged.
  • Realistically, I don't think this will affect Google's bottom line (apart from the single fine). OEMs won't suddenly stop bundling the Play Store. Even if some may decide to sell devices without the Play Store in addition to those with it, most won't. Realistically, most users will stick to Google and probably even Chrome even if a) OEMs don't pre-install them anymore or b) users will be given a choice during setup. Therefore, I don't think Google will suddenly start selling Android for money.
  • That will be fine. Try and sell their own phone they already do that. It hasn't worked as of yet for Google to grab market share and it won't in the future. Doing so will be a great way for another third ecosystem to rise up. And the other option to completely close their ecosystem (which won't solve their problems, you will still have to comply with everything in the EU complaint). Good luck! One of the biggest draws for OEMs is the very thing you propose to close. It may be the kick in the butt for Samsung (the only really Android manufacturer money maker) to change course with their own OS. Which would be disastrous for Android. No, Google is too smart not to realize the downside of what you think they should do.. The possibility of a small lost of users of their services that any EU requirement may cause far outweigh the negatives of taking their ball and going home. Any needle on the movement scale will be slight and users and OEMs will still want to use Google's own apps keeping the status quo of their ecosystem services in tack but without OEMs being forced to do so. At the end of the day they will do what Microsoft did pay the fine, adjust their practices, and move on. Right now Google forcing requirements that ban OEMs and forcibly regulate manufacturers to block competition makes anything that Microsoft did in the 90's seem mild in comparison.
  • I can see this. Given how much trouble MS got into for just including IE for free, it is no surprise Google got hammered for making their services the default on what is supposed to be an "open-source" OS. I wonder how long until Google gets the hammer over Chrome and all of their services seemingly being designed to work well only with Chrome.
  • I immediately tried to register AndroidAntitrust.com, but of course is was already registered. It resolves to a Bing search. That’s funny.
  • Concidering it was the case against MS that made Chrome a viable browser seems like a fair outcome to me. Guess we will see what happens when companies are forced to actually compete for customers.
  • Don't iOS devices come with a default browser and app store? Where's their massive EU fine?
  • I was just thinking the same but I think it's because it's not an open source os.
  • As does Microsofts windows. Default browser and App store. they should be sued for 5 Billion too!
  • I don't like Google at all. I still use a Windows Phone because I desperately don't want to go Google or Android, and part of me is gleeful at seeing the "Don't do evil" company get blasted like this (ha!), but that doesn't mean I can support this government invasion. The only monopolies that stand for more than a handful of product generations are those protected by government law (like the old train and AT&T monopolies were). Beyond that, they all fall because the monopoly holder gets complacent, milking their cash cow, and entrepreneurs and hungry profit seekers find a way to leapfrog them and better serve the interests of abused customers. Government involvement just takes away the incentive to succeed, which hurts all consumers in the long-run (even if it helps in the very short run).
  • Are all the scroogle fanboys on here protecting the hive at all costs? This is what happens when an advertising company abuses its market position, about time. I am sure all the writers over at lagdroidcentral are going crazy and crying in their milk.
  • They want to be Microsoft, they gonna learn...
  • ".. Android provides to thousands of phone makers .."
    On what planet is Pichai living on? Maybe this can happen after making Android proper open source ;)
  • Hopefully Microsoft is next for forcing telemetry with no opt out, updates and Edge.
  • Haven't both IOS and Android done exactly the same thing from the get-go? Ironically, they kind of make it OK for Microsoft to do it.
  • That is not a competition issue. The reason for this ruling against Google is their anti competitive OS practices
  • I meant to say it IS a competition issue. Why can't I edit my own comment?
  • Why did MS get punished for this back in the day and now Google gets away with it?
  • Because people only see Google and Apple in the mobile space? Google didn't get away with it. There's a massive fine. It won't change anything for OEM's though and Google won't really lose any sleep over it. I'm wondering why this hasn't been spun into a Jason Ward article about how W10M may be able to rise from the ashes after all.