by Elton Gomes
The EU recently imposed a $5.1 billion dollar fine on Google for breaching its anti-trust laws. The fine has forced Google to unbundle its Chrome and search apps from Android – and this may have serious implications on Android’s free business model.
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a blog post defending the company’s decision to bundle search and Chrome apps on Android, and outlined Google’s response to the EU’s record fine.
Pichai highlighted the fact a typical Android user will “install around 50 apps themselves” and is able to easily delete preinstalled apps. However, if Google is prevented from bundling its own apps, the move will disrupt Android’s ecosystem. “If phone makers and mobile network operators couldn’t include our apps on their wide range of devices, it would upset the balance of the Android ecosystem,” Pichai wrote in the post. The CEO however maintained caution to avoid the fact that phone makers will not be forced anymore to bundle such apps, but can chose to do so.
Pichai further pointed out that no Android smartphone OEM (original equipment manufacturer) is obligated to use Google apps and that they are free to modify Android in any way they want. He said that Google’s mobile operating system has led to more flexibility and given more opportunities to developers.
“Today, because of Android, a typical phone comes preloaded with as many as 40 apps from multiple developers, not just the company you bought the phone from. If you prefer other apps—or browsers, or search engines—to the preloaded ones, you can easily disable or delete them, and choose other apps instead, including apps made by some of the 1.6 million Europeans who make a living as app developers,” Pichai wrote.
Pichai then said that the fine could upset the balance that Google has maintained with Android. “…we are concerned that today’s decision will upset the careful balance that we have struck with Android, and that it sends a troubling signal in favor of proprietary systems over open platforms,” Pichai said.
Why was Google fined
Google was fined a record $5.1 billion by European authorities for abusing its power in the mobile phone market and the authorities ordered the company to revise its practices.
In addition to the fine, Google was also affected by some changes that would loosen its grip over its Android software, which is used in 80 percent of smartphones around the world. European regulators said that the changes would take effect in 90 days, and would undercut Google’s ability to automatically include its own search and other apps in mobile devices, thereby increasing the level of competition.
Google said that it would appeal the decision. “Android has created more choice for everyone, not less. A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation, and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge. “We will appeal the Commission’s decision.”
How will this affect Android customers
It is highly unlikely that consumers might experience a significant impact in usage of their phones. The complaint allows Google 90 days to alter its practices in Europe, and Google is likely to appeal the decision.
However, if Google is unsuccessful with an appeal, the company might have to change its preinstalled apps in a brand new Android phone. Previously, when faced with antitrust charges, Google has allowed customers to choose between services while setting up their phones.
The fine’s primary objective is to allow a level playing field for competitors to bring forward their app to users. For customers, that might mean seeking out alternatives as default options might be absent. But, as the EU’s argument goes, they might find something that suits them better.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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