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Google vs. the EU vs. our sanity [#acpodcast]

There isn't a lot going on right now, but somehow Andrew, Daniel and Jerry still manage to fill 90 minutes with hot takes.

Most of that time is spent talking about Google's showdown with the European Commission on Android's dominant position in the market, while the rest is spent between talking about Motorola's strange smartphone strategy, OnePlus 5's dubious camera legacy, and why Amazon would make a pretty damn good carrier.

Show notes:

  • EU considers yet another record fine for Google, this time over Android's anti-competitive terms
  • Motorola will unveil the Moto Z2 Force and other products at a July 25 event in NYC
  • The OnePlus 5 takes better photos than you think, but not as good as you hope
  • Amazon and Dish may make adorable carrier babies

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

  • Great show guys.
  • Thanks for listening!
  • Good job today, guys. I looked the deeper-than-usual dive into the EU issue. By the way, I listened to this entire damn episode while sitting in the runway waiting to take off for Philly.
  • Noooooooo
  • yikes.
  • Kind of a missed opportunity not having Alex on for this topic, eh?
  • We wanted him on but for scheduling reasons he couldn't make it. This topic isn't finished, so he'll definitely have a chance to chime in another time.
  • Can't have a damn Brit on the show on 4th of July week, after all. USA! USA! USA!
  • Shows that even a "slow week" can have a meaningful discussion. Really dug this one guys, don't go changing. (Also side note my baby girl apparently loves listening to podcasts too haha)
  • 3 North Americans speaking about Europe would obviously end up in a severe lack of understanding of the problem. - YES, ALL Android phones in Europe that have the Play Store, regardless of OEM, come with the Google search bar on top and Google apps on a folder on the first page of the home screen. That's per Google's demand. - The EU Commission only rules within the European Union...HOWEVER, countries outside the European Union like Norway and Switzerland (and the UK eventually if Theresa May isn't a moron) are still part of the European Single Market which is ruled by European Laws so it doesn't really matter if a country isn't part of the EU, if it's part of the ESM, this will apply to them as well.
    By the way, almost all of Europe that isn't under the sphere of influence of Russia is now part of the European Union and those who aren't have however joined the ESM so, there's also that (Which is why it's lunacy if Britain thinks it can actually leave the ESM and attempting to do bilateral trade-agreements instead.). - The EU already went after Apple over iTunes. However they don't go after Apple for the iPhone or alike for a very simple reason: Apple's marketshare in Europe is NOT big. You need to understand that. Unlike the US where Apple dominates half the market, Apple's market share in Europe is overall small. And by small I mean, Android owns 70% of marketshare in the 5 biggest European countries and that easily rises to around 80% when you add the rest of Europe.
    In those big 5, if you look at Spain, Android has over 90% marketshare. iOS has 7,5% (the west is WP, Symbian, BB etc). In Italy, Android has over 80%. iOS 14,3%. In Germany, over 80%. In France, 78,4%.
    Only in Britain has Android only 60%...but we can start removing the UK from these numbers anyway.
    Then go outside the big 5:
    In Greece, Android has over 80% marketshare. In Poland, Android has over 90% marketshare. In Lithuania, 80%. Etc.
    To make it even clearer, the only European countries where iOS has more marketshare than Android are Sweden and Denmark and even there, iOS has just around 50%. Everywhere else Android has comfortably over 65% of the market (and remember, in Europe there are still other operating systems showing up in the numbers like Windows Phone, BlackBerryOS, Symbian etc). - The EU has NO PROBLEM with the bundling of apps or even Google Search per se on Android. it has a problem with those apps not being removable and replaceable.
    In other words, the EU would be OK with the process IF, for example, we could pick up a phone and uninstall Gmail from it and replace it with something else. Or Google Photos. The problem is that users are being punished by not using those services through the allocation of storage space to those apps (the search engine isn't really the bigger question since Google allows you to pick up a different search engine already).
    Apps like Google Photos or Duo for example are NOT part of the Android framework. Even Gmail isn't essential for the Android framework. In fact, none of the Google services are apart from Chrome. If the system requires access to an email framework, that does NOT need to be Gmail. It can be Outlook or even Yahoo (hey, their poison). And since AOSP functions pretty much like stock Android and without any of those Google apps installed, Google will have a hard time explaining why all that bloatware is necessary for the Play Store to run. And iif Google has taken things OUT of Android and put them on their Google apps to create a dependency there the EU might simply accuse Google of taking advantage of the popularity of the OS to force people into their services by making the OS unusable without the bloatware in. So Google would be wiser to put music playing capabilities back on the Android framework (the "basic player" you mentioned for example) instead of making it dependable on the existence of their apps on the phone. Then leaves it to the consumer to decide if they want to use Google Play Music or they rather install another app for their music playing, for example.
    The EU is NOT seeking to take people away from Google services, they simply want consumers to have an option which today they are punished for having. What the EU is likely to demand is that Google at least makes those apps uninstallable so that users can decide for themselves if they want to use Google services or not. They will allow Google to continue demanding things like a Gmail account to access the Google Store etc. But they will not allow for Google to continue trying to push apps for information harvesting like Google Photos or Duo or Gmail down our throats and "punishing" us for not wanting to use them. It must be up to the user to device which apps it has on his/her phone and not Google. - The EU has a problem with Google's intimidation of OEMs with the "certification agreement". Google can not use its dominant position to prohibit OEMs from releasing two types with Android phones, one with and one without Google services for example. - It's completely false that the EU doesn't have to prove that monopoly power is being abused. This is how it works: The EU investigates and accuses a company of something. They present their proof. That company has the right to object and prove otherwise. If the Commission isn't convinced, they fine the company. If the company doesn't agree, they move the subject to the European Court of Justice which is the entity that ultimately applies European competition laws and that Google must ultimately obey to if they want to continue doing business in Europe.
    Most companies, however, rather obey the Commission than take the matter to Courts. Because most of them ARE violating the competition laws. - This is far worse than the situation was with Windows and Internet Explorer. Microsoft was bundling ONE program with their OS. Google is bundling a sh*t ton of different services. It's not only trying to force people to use Chrome, it's trying to force people to use other Google services as well. - This will only affect Android phones for a very simple reason: there's nothing else in Europe. No one uses Chromebooks and the other Google offerings like Nest and Google's version of Alexa (what's its name) simply aren't available in the vast vast majority European countries. - Phones sold in the European Union are NOT the same phones sold in the USA. They come with European specific ROMs. As such, it's completely irrelevant that the phones aren't made in Europe. The European ROMs will then have to comply with those demands. Just like Sony's ROM in the USA for example disables the fingerprint scanner.
    (by the way, we do have European OEMs like the Spanish "BQ" or the French "Wiko" which are very popular in the low budget smartphone market where you'd normally see the likes of Xiaomi and Oppo and alikes). - "Why should Google allow people to use other search engines on their operating system". This has to be the stupidest question I've heard on the entire podcast.
    Let me turn that around and go back 15 years: "Why should Microsoft allow users to install Chrome and use Google Search on their operating system? it's their operating system!"
    And I've just killed Google and Android. And I completely disagree with Jerry. This will be GOOD for consumers because it will free us from Google's monopolist attempts of shoving down all their services down our throats and allows us to decide to whom we give our data in each scenario. The EU's objective with this is NOT to try to force Google to remove their services. It's to force Google to allow for alternatives.
    If Google says to the EU
    "OK, we'll do this: henceforth we'll make all our apps and services uninstallable by the user and user-replaceable and on the set up process we'll ask the consumer to pick up the search engine they want to use"
    I can guarantee you that the EU will allow Google to continue demanding OEMs that they put the Google Search bar and apps folder on the front screen. Because THEN people will have those services promoted there BUT they will NOT be forced in any way to use them nor have their storage punished by not using them since they can remove the apps and services completely from the phone. Chrome became the absolute ruler when it comes to the browsers used in Europe because people chose it over Internet Explorer. But ChromeOS never went anywhere in Europe. Because people simply prefer Windows on their computers. If the EU hadn't forced Microsoft to do the same, Chrome wouldn't have had the chance.
    The worse that can happen to Google in this scenario is people stop using their apps and services and picking something else they like more. But that's not the EU's problem. If Google isn't offering something the consumers want, that's Google's problem. IF as a result of this there's a decrease, for example, in Gmail use, it's because consumers deemed Gmail to not be as good as something else and dropped. That's the entire point of COMPETITION. You get the users because your products are better. I can garante you that Google will NOT lose search revenue by giving European Android users a choice of search engine on set up. Because we WILL continue to pick Google search. However, the EU wants us to be given an option. Just like when we were given the browser option on Windows, we picked Chrome over IE.
  • You don't help the pompous, arrogant European stereotype much do you. I usually really like the content of your comments but the fact that you start almost everything with such an arrogant tone and word choice really detracts from the over all good points you tend to make. I hope you find this as more an observation that you could reflect on a little and not me being rude or a dick.
  • How's that arrogant? He points out the glaring falsehoods and misconceptions that we're said in the podcast. He doesn't insult anyone, unless you think being called North American is rude. It is a fact that most Europeans have no idea how EU works, so it is not that much surprising that people from third countries know even less. That's fine, but the inaccuracies need to be corrected.
  • Maybe it's just me but the opening sentence says it all, you couple that with previous posts and it looks well....arrogant.
  • I appreciate all your points, and the length of time it likely took you to compile them.
  • I thought this was a good read. What's good for Microsoft is good for google too. I'm surprised it took this long coming around.
  • Thank you! I was really mobilising my inner strength to write a post about how EU competition rules work, but you wrote down everything I wanted/needed to say and more. Agree 100%. Plus, the EC will go after Apple in the same way once it becomes the dominant smartphone player in Europe. That is not likely to happen anytime soon, hence the "double standard".
  • Much like 28 EC Justices will obviously end up in a severe lack of understanding of the problem. It's simple really. There are over 750,000 developers writing apps for Google's Play Store. There are approximately 2,000 different models of "Android" all with different software. Google's dependency on a handful of apps and their associated libraries being in place is part of the Compatibility Test Suite that Google forces manufacturers to pass if they want to use Google's Play Store. This is how developers can write one app and it will work on any one of over two million phones from over 2,000 models. As soon as you remove Gmail (your example) none of the 1.5 million apps are guaranteed to work because the Google Sync adapter is incomplete. This includes apps that customers have paid for. It might even include the Play Store app itself. If Google changes the entire framework of Android then changes the APIs that app developers use, you'll have the 5.5 million Pixel users with access to Google Play while everyone else waits for an update. There are plenty of things that need to change from Google and every other company that makes electronics and/or software. For example, I'd like to see Microsoft stop abusing its monopoly (ECJ seems fine with this) and forcing Direct X dependency because it's financially hurting Java and OpenGL developers. But I know saying that X product can not be included in your operating system by default will mean the same thing it meant when told to Microsoft over 20 years ago. Nothing will change other than removing an icon because nothing is able to change without breaking legacy support.
  • I have a pixel and, except for Play Services, all other apps can be disabled, including core ones like Google Search, the Play store, Chrome, and Gmail. That's functionally exactly the same as uninstalling them but allows people to factory reset to the original state if they have a problem or want to resell the device. Putting an install function in place has huge security implications because it would require the system partition to be writable to the user. So according to your theory, Google is already compliant with what you think the EU commission would allow them to do. And, as was stated in the podcast, Google has made Android flexible in allowing any competing services to integrate, so you can make Bing your search provider, Cortana your assistant, Outlook your email client, and Firefox your browser. The current relationship between the OHA partners has made smartphones more affordable and diverse. What problem is the commission trying to solve?
  • I just downloaded AC app, registered only to come here to tell you, that this is exactly what goes through my mind when this comes up...
    Thank you!!!
  • Google knows they are wrong. Eu is always looking for a payday. Google has factored in a penalty but still will profit. That is why it is worth it.
  • Jerry, before you start commenting on Google and their tax evasion tactics I'd suggest you go look at a map and understand the difference between Northern Ireland and Ireland & which is the capital of which. Referring to "Belfast" when you mean Dublin shows a complete lack of understanding and insensitivity to cultural & Geo-politics of the region. I agree with others that you really needed a European on the show to give the other side of the story and correct some the inaccuracies that were being banded about as fact. Other than that it was a pretty good show.
  • Sorry Jerry, my comment was a bit harsh (I should never comment when having a hangover), but having lived through "The Troubles" and had friends impacted by it. It always erks me when folk get it wrong. Apologies.
  • But I meant Belfast. That's the latest big office space they have opened. Their EU innovation lab.
  • If you really did mean Belfast, and I don't think you did, then you're still wrong. As why an earth would they, or could they, be paying more taxes through their Belfast office?? All their sales/profits get funneled through their Dublin, Ireland office via highly controversial tax reduction scheme in cahoots with the Irish Gov. Why would they being paying tax on a shared office space (with Pwc), that's an innovation lab and therefore not a profit generation centre or sales office.
  • I heard one of you guys say you think the EU just 'picks a company out of a hat' to prosecute. If you believe that, you're seriously deluded. There have been huge lobbying efforts to get this to happen - most definitly (and ironically) including efforts by Microsoft. Of course the 'all Google if you make any Google' policy is probably going to be the first to go. But the EU may have a heavier hand than that. Odd, since Google is already way more open than Windows was - even after the EU's mandates. Browsers and other apps can be installed via the Play store easier than you could do it on post-EU Windows systems.