Google altering business model of Android to comply with European regulations

Sheri Evans
October 17, 2018

Device makers will also now be able to install rival modified, or "forked", versions of Android, the most widely used mobile operating system.

The European Commission in July hit Google with its biggest ever fine, imposing a 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) penalty, giving the USA tech giant 90 days to change its practices. We'll be working closely with our Android partners in the coming weeks and months to transition to the new agreements.

The alternative is to use none of Google's suite of apps, and thus don't get access to the official Play Store.

The EU's main problem with Google isn't about Android specifically, but with the company's dominance of search traffic.

Realistically, this probably won't change much for most Android devices.

Google will sell a licensing package for an app bundle of Google Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube.

The Commission's ruling described Google's licensing terms for its search and browser apps with the Android operating system as "two instances of illegal tying", beginning from 2011 and 2012 respectively.

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Google was slapped with a record-breaking $5 billion (£3.8bn / €4.3bn) fine from the European Union in July.

Google's new approach to licensing will now allow the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG to create flagships that run an OS separate to base Android, though we doubt many companies will do that.

It said the new licensing arrangements would come into effect on 29 October and apply to devices shipped to the European Economic Area (EEA) - which includes Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein in addition to the EU. The company has not specified the amount of the licensing fees. In exchange, the hardware companies no longer have to install Google search and the Google Chrome browser, though they can do so for free if they want to. "Android will remain free and open source." writes Google's Hiroshi Lockheimer in a blog post.

The Commission seems pretty pleased with Google's decision though it noted that it will watch the search giant like a hawk to ensure it complies with the EC's antitrust rules. In providing Android free to any device maker to use and modify, Google helped make the software available everywhere - in phones, tablets, cars and refrigerators.

Google is ending a controversial practice in Europe where it requires smartphone makers seeking to pre-install Google's app store to also add other Google apps, such as search and Chrome.

May 2014 - Joaquin Almunia, European Competition Commissioner at that time, says feedback from complainants will be crucial to determining whether he accepts Google's concessions.

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