Google's 'anti-competitive' Android moves could impact Xbox, Windows 11

Google "G" logo
Google "G" logo (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Google is facing a lawsuit alleging anti-competitive practices.
  • Google has gradually ramped up its control of Android over the years, forcing manufacturers to integrate more and more Google services.
  • Google reportedly plans to restrict subscription-based streaming services, and that could have implications for Microsoft and many others.

Google is being slapped with a suite of anti-trust lawsuits as part of a larger pushback in the U.S. into anti-competitive monopolistic practices by "big tech" (via The Verge). As part of the legal proceedings, the prosecution is outlining a range of scummy moves by everyone's favorite data-harvesting search monopoly designed to stifle competition.

The moves range from forcing Android handset manufacturers to pre-install up to thirty Google services, give them "favorable" home screen placement, while making them "impossible" to delete, which the lawsuit alleges stifles competition from other solutions. Google is also set to ditch installable APKs for apps, which will make it more difficult for competing Android stores to curate and offer content, such as the Samsung Galaxy Store, Amazon app store, and the upcoming Windows 11 Android integration feature.

Among the most impactful for Microsoft potentially is this new change to subscription-based services, which will, like Apple's iOS, be banned from informing users how to sign up via the web. Services like Office, OneDrive, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and beyond, may have to give Google a 30 percent cut of in-app subscriptions, or they'll be banned from helping users to sign up via third-party web-based means.

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While this isn't going to stop anyone who is determined to sign up for Xbox Game Pass, Netflix, and other similar services, it does disrupt the usual purchase flow for potential customers on Android and will impact the ability of these services to acquire users.

Apple has faced mounting pressure from regulators and the public alike over the raw deal it offers developers on its platform, facing a fruitless but rather embarrassing lawsuit with Epic Games over Fortnite, which is currently effectively banned from iOS devices for offering users a way to acquire in-app purchases without using the Apple Store. Microsoft also pivoted the development of an iOS native app for Xbox Game Pass to building a web app instead, because Apple's 30 percent fee on top of the arbitrary requirement for games to be separate entities would've made the business there unviable.

Source: Windows Central Xbox Game Pass on Android helps users sign up on the web right now, but Google is reportedly seeking to ban that practice. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Google has responded to the multi-state accusations in a blog post, alleging that it is "open" and fosters competitiveness. Although, the evidence offered in the legal complaint seems to suggest otherwise. You need only search in Google (or Bing 😉) for "Google fined" to discover a plethora of instances where the company has failed to appeal anti-trust allegations. They say there's no smoke without fire, after all.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • Another reason Microsoft were stupid to give up on Windows Mobile. They didn't support it and they didn't have faith in it, and then they abandoned it. The world is crying out for an alternative to Google or Apple. Step up Amazon since Microsoft are clueless.
  • Agreed, MS was one of the few tech companies with the capability to offer even a vaguely credible alternative, if they'd stuck with it they'd have broken through eventually... they stuck it out with Bing, sucks they gave up on WM, but oh well.
  • Or is now the time to bring it back? O.o I mean the tech is there with Windows on ARM I'm sure they could tweak windows 11 to have it run properly on phone devices.
  • @Satsumo Indeed they were. I blame the greedy shareholders and idiotic bean counters to be honest. As the shareholders forced Steve Ballmer out for acquiring Nokia's D & S division. The bean counters for axing the mobile division resulting in absolute charlie foxtrot of a launch for the 950 series to name one example. Never the less, Microsoft can bring Windows Mobile and they should. As 1) this pandemic ain't going away, 2)direct hardware integration with xbox and xcloud means we get a proper xcloud showcase as opposed to something shoehorned into Android. Which given Google's past practices will be broken occasionally every update to Android. As by doing so Google pushes not so tech savy people away from Xcloud. 3)Due to the ongoing pandemic, a WM11 device with continuum would solve many problems. A)It's cheaper, faster and cost effective to ship a phone to an employee due to package and weight size. As the company only needs to provide a dock and a phone. B)With teams and Microsoft / Office 365 direct hardware integration. First party Apps will benefit from hardware acceleration such as excel (large spreadsheets). I'm not sure if Macros still don't work on ARM CPUs. C)WM11 + Continuum + ARM64EC will be a boon for mobile docks, bluetooth keyboard and mice. So a lot of money to be made for accessory makers. As with a most docks you only need one cable - HDMI. For power, most TVs and Monitors now have USB ports. Plus IT can vesa mount the docks to the monitor if they wanted to lock down the hardware. So effectively you could have a completely Wire free set up - easier for staff to disinfect hot desks. Later on we would finally get decent and affordable Qi wireless pads for bluetooth keyboards and mice. As that's a major gap in the market. But it's a niche product in orgs as Bluetooth keyboard and mice are seen as a hassle due to charging the batteries / replacing batteries. The potential profit generation for a Windows Mobile 11 device is practically endless. Damned short sighted shareholders and bean counters. Tldr: axing the mobile division was appeasement for the short sighted bean counters and shareholders. Appeasement never works. @Jez Corden, @Anullator If you have a L950 or 950XL check out the Microsoft apps in the WM10 store. Alot Win32 Microsoft applications are showing up, which at the moment can be installed for other devices. I was trying somehow install Microsoft Flow on the 950XL that's when I noticed the Win32 Applications.
  • I can't handle W10M with my work flow, I need features for work that aren't on W10M.
  • @Jez Corden I know what you mean. I'm using Sailfish X on a Xperia 10 as a daily driver using Android apps without any Google services installed. I can skate by with WM10. However the apps I need no longer work properly for obvious reasons lol.
  • The nice thing about these devices running on Windows is, if the app or service you need either doesn't have any web service dependencies (probably unlikely!) or the service has a public web API, and the service isn't available as a web site you could access in the browser, you can still write your own solution for it. :-)
  • TechFreak1 - "I blame the greedy shareholders and idiotic bean counters to be honest." Microsoft was late to the game and ran smack in the durable monopoly that Google is now being hauled into court for anti trust violations. Even Bill Gates in 2021 acknowledged that Microsoft utterly screwed up: "Microsoft didn’t end up doing the phone operating system well enough. I made mistakes there that I regret.” In 2010 iOS controlled 33.1% of the market, Android had 4.5%, and Windows had 1.0%. In 2015 iOS was at 23.5%, Android was at 59.7%, and Windows was at 2.2%. In 2021 iOS is at 26.9%, Android was at 71.9%, and Windows was at 0.02%. The only good news here is Windows only gave up 2.18% market share in 11 years. Then there is the matter of never having had a viable app store, developer support, carrier support, third party hardware support, or the support of the "idiotic bean counters", Bill Gates, and ultimately Satya Nadella. As for the "greedy shareholders", the opportunity cost they suffered by sticking with Microsoft during the Ballmer years is immeasurable plus there is that minor matter of Microsoft writing off about $6 billion because of the Nokia disaster. Thankfully Nadella euthanatized this dog. With this as a background, I utterly fail to understand how it is possible to assert Microsoft didn't try hard enough or folded their cards too early. As for the "greedy shareholders" forcing Ballmer out of the CEO chair is flat out wrong. It was the Microsoft board which included Bill Gates that sent Ballmer packing. Asserting "Tldr: axing the mobile division was appeasement for the short sighted bean counters and shareholders. Appeasement never works" is quite wide of the mark. To be clear, Microsoft suffered its greatest defeat and in doing so found themselves completely locked out of the third wave of computing, mobile computing. Walking away from something this strategically important wasn't done to appease "short sighted bean counters and shareholders." Keeping the mobile division alive would have been a blindly idiotic choice, like taking a nap in a dumpster fire. Shutting down the mobile division took clear eyed thinking and real guts.
  • "Shutting down the mobile division took clear eyed thinking and real guts.", would it not have been a better plan to just bring back the amount of new devices each year to 2 (one budget and one good midrange) to reduce costs but still being able to hold some market share / hold the door open? Not to mention that would also have been better for UWP apps (especially since combined with Surface devices that would have been a good userbase for apps).
  • By that logic, Bing should have been shut down years ago...
  • "The world is crying out for an alternative to Google or Apple." Except they're not, which is exactly the problem. A very small minority are crying out for such an alternative. If "the world" really was then Windows Phone would have done better than it did in the first place. Even now, most people are fine with what Apple and Google are doing and they don't care if Google charges Microsoft or Netflix 30%. Of those who are actually interested in the companies, many Google and Apple users still see Microsoft as the bad guy. In case you were thinking that I might be coming from an anti-Microsoft position, I was using Nokia phones since the 1990s, including a Lumia 925, until I bought the Lumia 950XL. I've since had a an LG V30 and a V40 and will be living with that until I can see whether the Surface Duo 2 will work for me. I also have four Surface devices in my house at the moment, not including the Surface 3 that died a while back, and I'm a .NET developer by trade. I would have been very happy for Windows 10 Mobile to succeed but it just wasn't going to happen. Microsoft could have done some things differently but I think that their late entry and early missteps were too much to overcome.
  • There is an element of truth in that. Most consumers don't care whether the app providers get screwed.... but slowly Google is pushing their luck with regards to people data. More and more people are beginning to understand that they should care about their data. I can't see MS pushing W11M - they get stage fright whenever they get involved with mobile. It's more likely that Amazon will do something if/when Google tries to go after their revenue on Android. I absolutely loathe my Android phone but if MS bought out an alternative I'd be reluctant to get it because they abandoned in the past (950 and MS Band)
  • Harmony OS here I come.
  • A decade ago, I would have never thought that I would like Microsoft the most out of the Big Tech companies.
  • Everyone is an Angel until the dark side comes to light
    What we experience or see is what we know :)
  • Exactly. Google use to say, "Don't Do Evil". Well, they gave up that slogan a while ago. I guess they didn't believe that anymore. Haha!
  • Microsoft didn't make a web version of Game Pass because of the 30% cut. They made it because Apple wanted every game it offered to be listed and reviewed as individual apps which they said was impractical
  • That too, aye. But they only added that arbitrary clause for XGP.
  • Google being Google... Recall that they were a major part of why Windows Phone never gained sufficient traction with their refusal to let their apps (Gmail, YouTube, Maps, etc.) to be on the fledgling store, leading many average consumers who were enthralled with Windows Phone to give up since they couldn't use their favourite apps. Now, they want to choke people off Andrroid and prevent competition. A monopoly always monopolizes.
  • Microsoft didn’t have apps on Android either. Microsoft didn’t make apps for Android until years later, not that they had decent services anyways. It wasn’t Google’s fault Microsoft services were terrible or nonexistent in 2010. Android was just better. There were very few people enthralled by Windows phone so sales were always soft.
  • More like, Microsoft was too late to the game with a compelling offering (for either users or developers). By the time they got Windows Phone 8 to market, iOS had already been around for 5 years and Android for 4 years, complete with app stores and other attractive consumer-oriented features. The competition had already established a market dominance that was just too big a hill to climb for Windows phones to overcome.
  • Google really does suck.
  • Here is my preference of tech companies based on ethics and anti-trust. Higher in the list is best liked; lower is least liked.
    1) Microsoft. They learned there lesson with the Internet Explorer anti-trust law suite and have been on good behavior.
    2) Apple. Do not like how they control device interoperation with their closed garden.
    3) Amazon. They were evil to fight California to collect sales tax. Kindle format is a monopoly. They treat workers like robots.
    4) Google. They wrote the book on tracking everything we do on the internet and making money off that. They basically corrupted the internet. It will take years to fix it.
    5) Facebook. They are a real threat to democracy and foster misinformation. If all the Facebook servers went down, the world would be a better place.
  • That's a darn good summary. Kudos.
  • @Jeffery L You'll probably like Apple less after you start digging into their Scummy moves around renewables and how they dodge tax. In short, Apple buys (as a sole customer) and sells (as a utility provider) itself electricity it generates from the tech and innovation bought from individuals and small start ups.
  • TechFreak1, maybe it's just my ignorance on exactly what Apple is doing in that regard, but from your post, it just sounds like they're taking advantage of existing tax laws, which every company and family should do to minimize its tax burden. Of course, if it's more than that and they're breaking the law, then they should be prosecuted.
  • @GraniteStateColin - They have not broken any laws per say. But they have effectively hoarded tech for themselves that could helped reduce the effects of Climate Change. Which in my book is extremely scummy. Apple didn't achieve their much touted "100% renewable energy" title themselves.
  • While I can understand that perspective, a company as rich as Apple could effort to focus a bit more on corporate social responsibility. Instead they are incredible greedy with almost everything they offer.
  • That is true but the bar is set kind of low here so I can understand why he placed Apple still on 2nd position.
  • Jeffrey, I'm with you on MS being the best now, having learned their lesson from IE. I don't really blame Apple for their walled garden, because they sell and manufacture all the pieces. I think Google's situation is much worse, because Google tries to project that it's an open system for everyone, which is far, far from the case. Also, Apple's moves really do protect their users and customers (and their users are their customers). Google sells their users to their customers (advertisers). I also think that Google is just as bad as Facebook and Twitter and seeking to control and manipulate the information that people receive, which I believe is largely responsible for the hyper-partisanship across the US today. In the case of Facebook and Twitter though, they do go further by having a very low bar to block any speech with which they disagree, while allowing all manner of craziness for positions they endorse. Worse, they incentivize angry posts, where they could have easily used gamification to foster friendly debate and discussion to bring people together, instead of drive them apart. While I do think MS is still the best of these guys, like Google, they really promote their politics, even when it has nothing to do with their business. I can understand a company lobbying for its survival or legislation that supports its profitability, but I think promoting a political agenda just because the executives happen to hold certain beliefs is bad business. I have my political opinions, but I would never try to force them on my customers. All this could do is piss off half of them. Unfortunately, MS seems to be drifting more and more in this direction, just like Google, Facebook, and Twitter (and even more than Apple).
  • A great summary. I agree with most of your list. 🙂
  • Yeah that pretty much sums up the tech industry right now. Unfortunately I don't think the Internet is fixable.... it's corrupted beyond redemption by Google and Facebook.
  • Too bad all of Microsoft’s services are so mediocre. The only thing worth using is Windows if you need all the features.
  • What? Azure, Office365, Xbox, Teams? Mediocre? Then there's the Surface range. The 90s called... they want your comment back.
  • Come out of the cave.
  • I always buy my subscriptions outside the PlayStore... How I miss Windows Phone...
  • Someone really has to crack down on these anti competitive tactics from all these big tech companies, and pass legislation banning certain practices.
  • I think this makes it more likely that we going to have a Windows 11 mobile.
  • I doubt MS is going back into the mobile OS business. I think they are happy riding on the back of AOSP and leveraging Android app ecosystem for their mobile device needs. Frankly they should do the same with Windows and make its underbelly Linux, they are moving in that direction anyway.
  • Politicians playing whackamole with Google. Total BS on their part.
  • I abandoned Google a few years ago, only thing I use of theirs is YouTube. My email and everything else for the internet is handled through Microsoft. In fact, next month I will have enough points to get another $50 gift card to buy myself a video game - something I couldn't do on Google's search.
  • So true about the rewards from Bing search. 🙂
  • My first smartphone was a Nokia 820 running Win 8. I stayed with Win mobile untill they quit making them. Don't see how they can make a comeback, but would be interested if they did. Use Android now but don't care for it aside that it's not Apple. Have two Win 10 computers and several Android tablets and a phone. Easy to switch for me.
  • A possible comeback could be in the form of Windows 11 (+ maybe a skin) considering it now can run android apps (atm Amazon store but soon APKs too which probably means other stores too like Fdroid).
  • After reading through the posts, i. Had some old windows mobile memories pop up. I actually owned a t-mobile HTC wing. I absolutely loved that phone. Never realized how ahead of the time windows was before they botched it up royally...
  • Remember that last update to Windows Mobile before MS pulled the plug? They bascially allowed updating (seeking) all Windows phones, regardless of OEM and carrier. I know there is a TON more Android OEMs and devices and such but, frankly, if a AOSP is loaded as a Google Android phone, Google should be requiring drivers from the OEM and they should be updating these directly. The OEM updating model is broken, if it ever worked at all.
  • "Google is also set to ditch installable APKs for apps", well that sucks, I wonder how this will impact open source stores like Fdroid and apps like Blokada.
  • They are not, this writer has not clue what is AAB is. Android will still use traditional APK , only brand new apps submitted in Play Store will use AAB. But even AAB is actually APK. See my comment.
  • "Google is also set to ditch installable APKs for apps", that's a huge misunderstanding (even a lie) of the AAB concept. AAB is only for Play Store app distribution process, APK are not going any where. AAB is also APK, rather than sending the whole code, AAB will only use the code necessary for a certain device and send a Modular APK to that device. AAB is not a different file extension that will replace APK 😑😑
    Do some more research before writing.