Google Search and the Google Play store could leave your Android phone soon
Google has found itself in yet another battle with the EU after its antitrust regulators investigated the financial incentives that Google offers manufacturers to install its search and apps on their devices.
The European Commission believes that Google is abusing its position in the smartphone market to shut out rivals such as Microsoft’s Bing, according to Reuters. The 150-page complaint also details the EC’s plan to stop Google from offering discounts or payments to manufacturers who preinstall the Google Play store and Google Search on their devices. The EC believes that this prevents device manufacturers from using competing Android-based operating systems such as CyanogenOS.
This raises a lot of questions about exactly what the EC wants to prevent Google from doing. For one, Google owns and develops Android – the most widely used mobile OS in the world. Instead of paying companies to ensure its apps and services are preinstalled on devices, Google could just as easily build them into Android as standard, preventing manufacturers from removing them. It could also do this to Android variants such as CyanogenOS.
Consumers also expect a certain level of Google software in their Android phones, buying them because they want access to the comprehensive Google Play app store over that of, say, Amazon or Samsung’s own app stores.
It should come as no surprise that the complaint levelled against Google didn’t come from end users but from FairSearch – a group formed from organisations all directly affected by Google’s comprehensive services. FairSearch believes Google’s overwhelming dominance in online search and mobile services will damage their businesses – not too surprising when you realise FairSearch is comprised of Nokia, Oracle, Expedia, TripAdvisor and some other companies I’d wager you’ve never even heard of.
This case is yet another strike in Google’s ongoing battle with the European Commission, which seeks to make an example of Google. According to the case document, the EC plans to set Google’s fine at “a level which will be sufficient to ensure deterrence”.
Naturally, Google has defended itself against such claims, stating: “We look forward to showing the European Commission that we’ve designed the Android model in a way that’s good for both competition and consumers, and supports innovation across the region.”
Another question around these ongoing anticompetitive issues is what will happen in Britain once we leave the EU. Technically Google will be well within its rights in our country to throw whatever the hell it likes into Android as standard. Thankfully, in this instance, that’s not a bad thing, but who knows what other doors this will open for Google and other global companies?
The EC levelled a similar case against Microsoft in 2004, forcing it to pay a €497 million fine and release a version of Windows without Windows Media Player, amid concerns around its dominant position in the marketplace. But as consumers, we all know how irritating it was to buy Windows without a media player as standard – perhaps there are some things the EC shouldn’t try to change.