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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.

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.

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Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

71 Comments
  • Will Google(android) leave the EU most likely not. But there will be a Tipping Point. When who knows, but you keep fining companies enough they'll eventually take their ball and go home
  • Or, you know... Start playing by the rules.
  • Or someone else's interpretation of the rules. Happens all the time. This is why we have appeals and courts.
  • Google owns Android. Google can install all the Google apps they want on their Android phones.
  • You know what's funny Google/Android phones. Could come with no apps installed whatsoever just the one that I would actually make the phone run and I would dare say 70% of the people in Europe that have Android phone would install Google apps on it. This really isn't about the "rules" they're using it as a money grab. But in the end I honestly don't give a rat's rear end I don't live in Europe anymore and there's a reason why....
  • The 29% of the ones that don't install Gapps, don't install it because they don't know how. Only maybe 1% actually don't want the Gapps on their phone. Of that 1% maybe .25% can give you reasons that are sane and legitimate for their use cases to not have Gapps installed. .25% of the EU is still a lot of people though.
  • I do think this decision is ridiculous given that Google owns Android. And alternative non-Google services can easily be downloaded from Google Play. Even if this were technically a breach of competition law, the size of the fine seems very disproportionate.
  • This is asinine. Google has so many built in ways to turn Android into anything you want, whether you use their services or not.
  • Its not you the consumer that lack of flexibility pertians to, but the shady requirements they hang around the necks of any company wanting to sell a phone with Android pre-installed.
  • But again, any company can put Android on their phones with literally zero involvement with Google. Go download AOSP, do whatever you like to it, and ship it. However, if you want to take advantage of the proprietary ecosystem Google's built on top of Android, it is perfectly reasonable for Google to license that ecosystem as it sees fit. Anyone that doesn't like it is wholly free to go build their own ecosystem based on AOSP. Amazon is the most obvious example. The EU is basically telling companies that if you go and invest millions or billions to build an ecosystem, you don't really get to own that ecosystem. The ONLY thing I think holds any weight in this complaint is that Google restricts a company from having two product lines - one with proprietary Google Play stuff and one without. This puts undue requirements on products which may not require proprietary Google apps. Ignoring that iOS is indeed a competitor and is far more restrictive is a ridiculous oversight by the EU.
  • Yeah, why they're not applying this standard to Apple and iOS is puzzling. You can't install another App Store on an iPhone.
  • That’s a different case. Apple doesn’t licence to other OEMs. They put their software on their hardware. The Store situation has nothing to do with this particular situation
  • Google should just charge OEM's $10-$20 for every device they sell in the EU and they can uninstall Google Apps on those devices. The OEMs will just pass the cost onto the consumers anyway.
  • But iOS is perfect! Comes preloaded with Apple apps but since you can't use their os on other phones they are in the clear./s So Google gets punished for letting others use android and have them include some of their apps. This whole fine thing is just a raquet by the EU to make money.
  • iOS doesn't have relevant marketshare in Europe to warrant intervention. Google on the other hand completely dominates the European market.
  • It's not even about market share. Apple doesn't give out their os to other OEMs. Apple is the OEM.
  • That's also true. But the marketshare plays a crucial part in this. The EU Commission only moves their bloated a*ses when companies gather too larger a market.
    They did it with Microsoft already. Google should have seen this coming miles away. And if Apple one day stops being a market-irrelevant (albeit absurdly profitable) company, you can bet the Commission will go after them as well.
  • Absolutely absurd...Google owns Android...if you don't like their apps and OS being pushed on you buy an iPhone...but Apple does it to even further extremes...
    Will they be next ?
  • Android is open-source. No one owns it. Not even Google.
  • Yes and no....
  • You better look at the definition of open source again because there is nothing there stating that ownership belongs to nobody.
  • From the Oxford Dictionary: "ADJECTIVE
    Computing
    Denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified." Google might have the ownership of the original code but it's just in-title. Because the nature of the good requires it to be made available for free, Google can NOT exercise any of the property rights that are common on a truly owned property.
    And if you can't exercise the normal rights of property, you don't really have true ownership of the thing.
  • Google owns Android. https://developer.android.com/distribute/marketing-tools/brand-guidelines https://developer.android.com/license Google does not own the Android Open Source Project, they only maintain it.
  • Google can't relicense android 8 but beginning with P, Google could stop releasing their source code, apart from the GPL licenced stuff which is limited to the kernel. They have no legal obligation to maintain the AOSP. It's not a question of ownership aside from trademarks, but one of control. It's also ironic that Google's openness, by donated their android code and established the OHA, is part of the reason they're being vilified.
  • The kernel that they uses open source.
    But the Play Store and the other Google things proprietary
  • Correct. And what the Commission is fining them for is the abuse of that position of strenght. By forcing OEMs to pre-install Google apps and services in a non-removable way in exchange for the Play Store - the thing that makes Android pretty much usable - they are limiting the access of competitors to the market. If Google made all their apps and services uninstallable, the EU Commission would have no case against them. They could still force OEMs to pre-install the apps.
    It's the "the users will NOT be able to get rid of them and so they'll eventually just give in and use the services" approach that is illegal.
  • I know what they're fineing for and I also don't give a rat's behind but you are mischaracterizing ownership of Google/android
  • They're limiting access of competitors in /what/, exactly? And how? The Play Store? You can quite easily deploy Android with nary a Google app in sight, and deploy your own app store. Search? Go install Bing or whatever you want. There's no limitation. Chrome? Same thing, there's a half dozen very popular browsers available. This ruling seems to be by people who don't have the slightest grasp of software. They're basically re-doing the US Microsoft ruling from ~20 years ago - when it was technically hard to go download Firefox - and applying it to a market where it's technically easy to go download Firefox or Bing or whatever.
  • If you can’t build it, fine it.. I just listened to Vestager from the EU and I’ve never heard such a load in my life. She said that Alphabet has blocked innovation?!?! Let one of the EU member companies build something better or equal and fight and compete for market share! Are the EU dumber, lazier or just less competitive and dependent on the succor of socialism?
  • 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 AND you will install Google Chrome AND all of the other Google Play variants (movies, games, podcasts) AND you will make the apps unable to be uninstalled (you can disable them though if you dig deep in settings, but you can never fully remove them). Basically, remember Cyanogen OS? It would have been way more successful in the US if it had Google Play app store on it... and it could come with DuckDuckGo by default instead without the Google app. With Treble, it would still be easy to update and Cyanogen could have become a successful business. 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... (smirk to Windows Central...)
  • Microsoft will never make their own version of Android. Mark my words. They don't have a phone manufacturing company anymore.
  • Well, expect to see Amazon Fire OS on a lot more devices...
  • Neither does Google. HTC is on it's way out and LG might be right behind them.
  • This is nothing other than a tax on the end user world wide. The EU is just grabbing $5 off the top of the next billion phones sold.
  • 4.3 billion euros is too little.
    They should have doubled it and forced Google to end the uninstallability of their apps. Google should be free to pre-load them. But we, the consumers, should be free to completely get rid of ALL of them.
    And this goes for all apps, of course.
  • You can disable all apps except play services on the pixels. To uninstall them, Google would have to give users write permissions for the system partition, which is a really bad idea for security and makes it really easy to brick your phone. You also can't resize the partitions so what are you gaining exactly?
  • They can just add a another screen or two to the setup procedures that ask what browser, messaging, search, or whatever you want. Basically the same thing Microsoft did.
  • Charge 20.00 per handset in Europe then remove all the preinstalled Google apps end of story. Then see who cried the blues!
  • You seem to think Europe is the USA where people can't actually afford the phones they buy (and thus need carrier deals and contracts). They could try that. And then see people looking at alternatives. In the end, Google would lose. As for me, I'd gladly pay an extra 20% for a phone that allowed me to completely uninstall ALL of Google's bloatware, from Gmail to Assistant, and still keep being able to get the Play Store to get the apps and services from the companies I actually trust.
  • Alternatives?
  • Just don't require chrome and search preinstalled. 95% of the consumer base is going to install google search or choose google search n their browser as soon as they need something anyway. Which oems are based in the EU that are creating android devices anyway?
  • Where did you got that 95% from? I want to see the studies.
  • "Which oems are based in the EU that are creating android devices anyway?" Wiko (ever more popular in Europe), BQ (also popular in the low end market) and HMD (Nokia).
    You could sort of also count Alcatel because the brand belongs to Nokia and is just being licensed to TCL. And the company that TCL owns to do the phones - TCT Mobile Europe SAS - is based in France.
  • That's not possible. If a phone is to have access to Google Play, the apps uploaded to Google Play need to work on it. Google will never be able to get Samsung and other OEMs to cooperate willingly, so there is a compatibility document that companies who build phones must adhere to if they want the play store installed. This includes Chrome and Search because several public APIs app developers use expect Chrome and search to be installed in order to work properly. If they are not installed, you have apps in Google Play that will not work unless every app that has a search field builds its own search engine and web view component. Google Play Services will not work without a number of google apps in place, because Play Services depend on the apps to run. Without Play Services, there is no Google Play because OEMS refuse to apply patches and update the phones they sell. Google can either tell the EU goodbye, or rebuild Android in a way there are no dependencies and bundle everything s developer can hook into inside the base install, or they can explain to the EU that these apps or components of apps are required and what they can do is hide the icon if the user decides they do not want them (this is what Microsoft did). In any case, Google knew this was coming and they already have the money earmarked. Every big tech company has its "EU tax" at the ready because it's just the cost of doing business.
  • What I'd love to know is, where are these blooms of dollars going to? What is the EU going to do with them? Give it to EU device manufacturers? Give it to EU consumers?
  • The budget of the EU. They need to make up for UK leaving them. The 5bil they get from google is more then 22 other countries pay. Only 6 other countries pay more then 5bil a year.
  • Google doesn't owe the EU anything. Actually Google doesn't owe anybody a dam thing.
  • If they want to operate in Europe, they play by European rules. Otherwise they can go home and try to survive on the US alone. Do you think Google could do that (when in the US they have a far less secure position on the market?
    Yeah, I thought so.
  • You know there's also other places besides the US and Europe? Honestly Google wanted to pullout of Europe they will take a hit but they would survive You know the globe is a big place you have South America, Asia, Africa...just saying.. .
  • Yes, indeed. The World is a big place.
    Except Africa and South America rely heavily on European companies and don't have enough money to keep Google profitable. And in Asia, Google is out of the biggest market - China. They could survive in the USA and the rest of the World without Europe, sure. But they'd go back to the brink of irrelevancy and the money would go away. They have a complete dominance over the European market - a rich market - and that's what makes them money. That's why they'll never just pick up their things and leave.
  • And whoever company was big in Europe after Google would leave would get fine too too hell and back....
  • One wonders if this would have happened if Google were headquartered in the EU.
  • Oh no they would fine it it.
  • No, they would not fine it. The EU has a very clear history of money grabbing from non-European based corporations. Not saying that google is innocent in this matter, however.
  • This is an utterly ridiculous amount and decision to fine Google for preloading their own apps on Android which is their OS is it not? The EU show do the same for Apple, after all you cannot even change default apps on iOS like you can on Android, it's not like Google is forcing people to use their apps but for me I can't use Android without Google apps, but I get there's a few people on here who absolutely hate Google. Google has every right to install their apps on Android phones in exchange for giving the OS away for free. I'm with Google on this.
  • Of course you'd be with Google.
    Now here's some information to help you understand the World outside your doorstep: - Unlike the USA where Apple owns 50% of the mobile market, in Europe they don't even reach 25% of marketshare on mobile (and everywhere else they're not even anywhere to be seen). Android is the de facto mobile OS in Europe and it has only grown with the death of Windows Phone. - Google Search is pretty much the only search engine used in Europe. Unlike the US where Bing has around 33% marketshare, in Europe Google Search has over 91% of marketshare (in some countries - like mine - that goes above 96%). - Google Chrome accounts for 59% of the browser market share in Europe. Safari is in second place with just 15%, then Firefox with 9% This is why Apple is not a target. They are not relevant enough in the European market.
    They have been targeted by the EU Commission before on the only then relevant service they had - iTunes - and Apple had to lower the prices in the UK because Apple was charging the Brits more than they were the rest of us in the Continent (of course, after Brexit this will change again for the Brits but that's their problem).
    If Apple starts growing in Europe (as a result, for example, of Google's idiotic idea of continuously destroying Android to make it a copy of iOS), then you can bet the EU Commission will start looking at Apple again.
  • What's wrong with OEMs pre installing Google apps in excellent for Android being free? It's not Google's fault if it's competitors aren't good enough to compete with Google and the EU should look at Apple again for the waters it forces it's iSheep to use Safari and it's other crappy apps which you cannot change them as default apps. And by the way, I'm British not American, which believe it or not, is closely contested between Android and iPhone with Apple dominating like in the US. And no I don't care for Brexit.
  • What's next? Google can't have the Play Store installed?
  • It's far too late. Who is left to compete with Android in the way Google does business?
  • 10 years ago the same was said about Microsoft. That was wrong then and this is wrong now.
  • Lol, pure socialist money grab, plain and simple. I'm all for the eu making the fine 10X as much, or 20X as much. Whatever amount it takes for Google to say FU to the eu and take their ball and go home. Also, if this is how the money grab game is going to be played, it's definitely time for Google to start charging for Android. $20.00 per device sounds like a nice starting figure. Which, of course, will be passed straight to consumers by the OEM's, enjoy.
  • Lol, pure socialist money grab, plain and simple.
  • Exactly! 100%.. Need money..?? Hit the ATM of corporate America.
  • Google should just keep it simple and there are not going to be like a app that you have to pay for updates
  • Charge manufacturers who sell European phone variants. Simple.
  • OK, either you're ignorant and haven't understood the EU complaints or that you've wilfully decided to misinform your readership as to what's actually going on. The EU has three points which I quote here: In particular, Google: 1) Has required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome), as a condition for licensing Google's app store (the Play Store);
    2) Made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices; and
    3 ) Has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google (so-called "Android forks"). Let's address those points. 1) You can't use Service X to promote Service Y or Z if you're a monopoly. Google Search has a monopoly and therefore the restrictions for monopolies come into force. You can't pick and choose which services you can install, it's an all or nothing deal. The first of which dates to 2011 and all devices must point back to Google Search and the second dates to 2012 and is about Google Chrome both of which are used to service Googles Software Stack which is unrelated to Android OS. This creates user bias as noted in the EU report: For example, in 2016:
    on Android devices (with Google Search and Chrome pre-installed) more than 95% of all search queries were made via Google Search; and
    on Windows Mobile devices (Google Search and Chrome are not pre-installed) less than 25% of all search queries were made via Google Search. More than 75% of search queries happened on Microsoft's Bing search engine, which is pre-installed on Windows Mobile devices. 2) Kickbacks or payments to use services, Google pays manufacturers to use Google Services over competitors which could have a direct corrolation such as Microsoft's own software stack. Whether the market wants this is irrelevant but again these services create a captive audience for Google Search and Services, reducing choice. This about preventing OEMs and service providers access to other engines such as DuckDuckGo and BING as viable alternatives and stifling the market to them through payments. 3) This is predominantly about FireOS from Amazon, OEMS such Samsung or HTC can't create and distribute AOSP deriatives alongside Google Approve systems. This kills competition dead, as proven with Amazon as they had to design, build and distribute their own phones. I believe there's documented evidence towards this end in that Samsung and HTC both had agreed to release FireOS phones which proves evidence to the EU. Apple isn't a monopoly and even if it was it would be affected by the above. It's an Appliance Device in that Apple produces the whole system themselves both hardware and software. That's the key difference between Apple and Google, Google's system is similar to Windows where OEMs have to licence the software If Windows started to force Google off their systems to use Edge, Cortana and BING Exclusively you'd see the torch and pitchforks Windows 10 allows you to change these or ignore them. Read the report, Google has abused it's dominance in the mobile and search market to the exclusion of third parties such as Samsung, HTC, Amazon and Microsoft to name but a few which in turn has killed off competition. If you wish to argue the above points please read the EU Report below: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-4581_en.htm
  • Having OEMs pre install Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, etc is a small price to pay for Android being free to OEMs to do with what they want and it's not like they can't change the default apps to whatever they want. This is a money grab from the EU as Google's the big dog, simple as that. Maybe Google should lock up Android and sell only Pixels in the EU and stick it to them.
  • Ha ha ha... Love to see them try...
  • We are all given option to delete and download google app and other prefered apps respectively. Google google has the best software too so i think this is just a money grub and a spat on Trump.
  • They broke the law, simple as that...
  • They broke no law, the EU are desperate for money.