The European Commission has issued Google with a €4.34 billion fine for Android anti-competition practices, after ruling the popular operating system unfairly cemented the dominance of Google Search.
The EC found Google had, via ’significant’ payments to smartphone manufacturers, ensured exclusive installation of Google’s own search application, and bundled Google apps such that selectively omitting services was impossible on the mobile platform prior to release.
More than 95% of all searches on European Android devices are made via Google search, testifying to the search giant’s unprecedented reach via pre-installation.
Many users (as Microsoft’s Bing search engine can surely attest) never change their system defaults, and although many rival search and browser providers are available for Android, these must be installed separately, often via Google Play.
Many will remember similar court battles fought between the US Government and Microsoft, resulting in the former’s eventual ruling that the latter had unfairly influenced the market via pre-installation of Internet Explorer, and creating the convention of an initial default browser choice on all new Windows PCs.
Microsoft eventually paid $561 million, but also continued losing ground to rival web browsers, including Google Chrome, among those using the internet on their operating system. Since 2013, the number of affected devices (particularly handhelds operating various versions of Android) has increased hugely. In future, new Android devices may be forced to include a similar initial search/browser selection, to help maintain consumer choice.
Google has defended its actions throughout, and has already announced it will appeal the decision, with the case expected to continue for some years.
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