Android might not remain free because of new EU ruling

Android might not remain free because of new EU ruling
Following the EU's decision to slam Google with an exorbitant fine for anti-competitive behavior — an unprecedented $5 billion — CEO Sundar Pichai published a memo where he outlines why Google requires smartphone makers to set Chrome and Search as default services if they want access to the Google Play Store.

“If phone makers and mobile network operators couldn’t include our apps on their wide range of devices, it would upset the balance of the Android ecosystem,” explains Pichai, hinting at the fact that the free business model that Android has maintained throughout the years depends on these service bundling practices. “But we are concerned that today’s decision will upset the careful balance that we have struck with Android, and that it sends a troubling signal in favor of proprietary systems over open platforms,” Pichai concludes.

What the memo hints at, basically, is that Google might have to start charging companies for Android licences, should the European Commision's (EC) demands are granted. As part of the European ruling, Google must stop forcing its web browser and search service on manufacturers, and stop any efforts to block forked versions of Android. It's still early to tell how the Internet search giant will respond to the ruling, but many observers have been quick to point out that Sundar Pichai's memo contains what could be constituted as "warning shots" regarding the openness of Android.

Some phone makers, such as Samsung, have developed their own web browsers, but are still forced to bundle Google Chrome on their products. If the EU ruling comes into force, these companies would be able to free to push their own browsers as the default option and also change the default search engine. This could have great implications for Google’s mobile ad revenue, which constitutes more than 50 percent of the company’s net digital ad revenue, according to The Verge.

On the other hand, Chrome and Google search are already so popular and widely-used, that even if such a ruling comes into force, the vast majority of the billions of people who are using them on a daily basis will continue to do so in the future.

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47 Comments

1. Feanor

Posts: 1365; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

As a European I have nothing against Google charging for Android. In the end of the day Android is really not free for the end user. We pay with accepting data mining of our private data. I'd have nothing against Google making money from licensing Android and cutting back from mining our data to a certain extent. It's anyway a reason for Google and Facebook coming under public scrutiny. Apple and Microsoft business model is in the end more transparent.

3. BL4NKF4CE

Posts: 136; Member since: Aug 06, 2017

Yeah but then the prices of Android devices go up. So instead of a 849EUR S9, you could see a 949EUR or 999EUR S9.

13. Ray.S

Posts: 457; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

They won't. Even now Google is charging for manufacturers to be able to use Google Services. Android has never been "free". The AOSP stuff which doesn't have any contemporary apps bundled (and has no Google Services included) is free, but to make any normal Android phone, you need to license the Google services & apps package.

21. Awalker

Posts: 1977; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

Or the manufacturers could use their own services or use the services of someone else.

36. sgodsell

Posts: 7368; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

If they can do this to Google, then carriers should not be able to add their crap on any smartphone going forward. They are the ones that make updates take even longer. If the EU still allows those @$$ holes to do that crap, then the EU can suck monkey balls.

27. cjreyes666

Posts: 81; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

Android has always been free, the usage of the core apps its a different story like you said. We are so accustomed to turn on basically any Android phone and see those apps in there. But what had happened if Samsung, Huawei and others taken the route that Amazon took years ago?

43. MartyK

Posts: 1043; Member since: Apr 11, 2012

Ray, I'm sure you understand the difference between a OS and softwares. Why are you mudding up the water with this AOSP and softwares? Amazon is using Android OS correct? Amazon isn't using Google software, correct?

2. Feanor

Posts: 1365; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Another issue is that Pichai criticizes the ruling as a blow against open-source systems in favour of proprietary systems. Well... In the beginning of Android open-source nature was all the rage but we know now how this panned out: fragmentation, UX design inconsistencies, pachy security and late updates. I think that the verdict of the common customer is meanwhile out and it's not necessarily in favour of open-source systems. Even Google admits it by having some parts of Android open and yet still seeking some closed nature tweaks for some other parts like Google services, Material Design guidelines etc.

5. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

The things you mentioned have nothing to do with the open-source nature of Android. And even with MD design guidelines, it can be perfectly open-source. Google has moved certain parts of the OS to their Google Play services, to make sure every phone is able to use certain APIs. They had to do this because smartphone companies weren't keeping their phones up to date to the latest Android version, not because Android is open-source.

11. Feanor

Posts: 1365; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Yes, basically we agree with only one small difference; The OEMs were not keeping their phones up to date to the latest Android version because this is something they had control over, because of Android's open nature. This is what I mean by "closed nature" practices from Google's part.

4. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Every major Linux distribution (and Android is just Linux made for mobile) is free and Linux ecosystem is in very much in balance: there are lots of app stores, there is freedom of apps and there is money (not as much as Google makes out of Android, but there is money). Sorry, Google, I don't buy it.

9. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Of course, they can still give away for free and make a buck. But it's a company that wants to maximize their profits. If they miss out on profit because of less ad revenue and compensate with charging money for the OS, that seems to be a no-no for you?

28. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

I'm OK with every business model (you just described what Apple does and I have Apple products) as long as it respects the law. I have my reservations and I am not 100% behind EC motivation, but I think the decision is correct.

29. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Same here, as long as its legal and ethical, go for it. And some parts I totally agree on. Telling OEMs they can't install other search engines for instance is highly dubious behaviour

44. MartyK

Posts: 1043; Member since: Apr 11, 2012

Who do you think should pay for the up keeping of the Playstore? Who should use their resources (money and man power) to try to keep the Playstore clean of vicious virus? Do you think the company who job it is make money off of doing this job?

46. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Google takes 30% out of every purchase made through Play Store - there's the money needed to keep it up (Amazon gets 1$ or nothing for every sale+top 20% - but the median is 15% - of the item's price). Don't get me wrong: I respect Google's right to take 99%, but that doesn't mean I support that practice and I find it fare.

34. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Redhat is major distro and it isn't free. Android wear is based on Android, and it's also not free (this is why you can't find Chinese dirt-cheap android wear, when you can literally buy $15 brand new android smartphone)

35. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Red Hat has been discontinued; now the same company offers RHEL (which is with money) and Fedora (which is free).

6. limporgyuk

Posts: 360; Member since: Nov 06, 2013

Maybe people can understand now why us Brits wanted to leave this tyrannical money hungry group

10. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Actually the Brits we pretty divided on Brexit (52% to 48%).

38. may_czos

Posts: 955; Member since: Nov 22, 2014

You didn;t want it, you've been manipulated with a bunch of lies. And you know what? Gtfo. You've always been a pain in the arse, wanting special privileges and rebates thinking you're special. You're not. And with soft Brexit you won't see any difference because you'd have to obey most of the rules.

7. limporgyuk

Posts: 360; Member since: Nov 06, 2013

Maybe people can understand now why us Brits wanted to leave this tyrannical money hungry group

8. limporgyuk

Posts: 360; Member since: Nov 06, 2013

Maybe people can understand now why us Brits wanted to leave this tyrannical money hungry group

12. Cyberchum

Posts: 1066; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Android provides almost infinite options. If you don't know how to switch apps like browsers, you aren't using the device right. DuckduckGo is my search engine of choice, and nothing stops me from using it. If Google want to charge OEMs for the OS, that'd be understandable!

39. may_czos

Posts: 955; Member since: Nov 22, 2014

They can't charge for the OS, since it;s based on Linux it's an open source project. They can charge for the Play Store access and ... they do.

14. lallolu

Posts: 732; Member since: Sep 18, 2012

I don't like that there are two apps doing the same thing on some phones. Ẹ.g. Samsung phones. However, Google is not stopping manufacturers from adding their duplicate apps as long as they have Google apps installed as well. I feel like the OEMs are as greedy as Google because they do not want competition either. It will be interesting to know how much Google will charge for then OS if it was to charge for it. Maybe it will be reasonable.

40. may_czos

Posts: 955; Member since: Nov 22, 2014

Wrong. Google apps are duplicates, they're the bloatware on Samsung phones.

15. doublestandardz

Posts: 103; Member since: Jul 06, 2018

This is just the FU’s way of shaking a company down for more money tax revenue under the guise of “competition.” Total BS.

16. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Tell that to the American companies who started complaining to the EU about this

17. DurTeeDee

Posts: 151; Member since: Sep 05, 2014

Oh boy can't wait for the EU to start charging Apple for putting apps and software on their own OS they devloped!!!

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