Google VP defends the company's approach to Android before the EU – our thoughts

Mr. Kent Walker, Google Senior VP and General Counsel

Mr. Kent Walker, Google Senior VP and General Counsel


In case you missed the news, the European Commission charged Google with anti-competitive practices yesterday, alleging the tech giant abuses its dominant position in Android development to force partnering manufacturers and carriers into pre-loading Google apps and services to the detriment of competing ones. Senior VP and General Counsel Kent Walker published a blog post in which he defends Google's practices by explaining Android's business and development model. We'll go through the post and provide some commentary in an effort to present the situation objectively.

Following the introduction, Walker refutes allegations that Google hinders its partners from making and selling devices with alternative operating systems based on the Android open source project, noting that "anyone can use Android without Google" and modify it freely. While that's correct, as evidenced by the many forks of Android running on Chinese smartphones, the reality is that Amazon's Android-based operating system present on its Kindle Fire devices is the sole "forked" version of Android that's prominent in Western markets like Europe and the United States. The reason is that using open-source (AOSP) Android doesn't allow for access to the Google Play Store, constraining users to alternative app stores – designed by the OS' creators, or installed from third-party sources. Rolling your own Android fork with access to Google Play is a whole different ball-game that involves agreeing to certain conditions, such as pre-loading Google Search and setting it as the default system search engine.

Thus, if a manufacturer or carrier wanted to sell an Android phone with access to the Play Store and other Google Services, but also set the default search engine to a competing one and not have Chrome in the home screen app dock from the get-go, that would be impossible. Users may be free to seek alternatives and choose them by default, but the truth is that the majority of them probably won't. In a way, Google ends up manipulating non-AOSP Android into an anti-competitive platform, and the VP's argument that manufacturers can "choose to load the suite of Google apps and freely add other apps as well" falls flat – of course you can add your own browser, just place it next to Chrome in the app dock and confuse users...

Of course, manufacturers and carriers can go the Amazon route and introduce devices with their own forks of Android and app stores, but realistically, how competitive can they be when big brands are marketing and selling Google-fied phones and tablets? Unless they find a sustainable way of monetizing proprietary app stores and services (like Chinese smartphone makers and Amazon do), or have a strong separate business to rely on (like Amazon), their efforts are pretty much doomed from the start.

Mr. Walker defends Google's debatable practices with another argument – Android is "costly to develop, improve, keep secure, and defend against patent suits," so naturally, the company is entitled to offsetting costs through revenue made on Google apps and services distributed via Android. He also added that the operating system makes it "simple and easy" for users to download alternative apps, including ones that directly compete with Google's.

While both arguments are indisputable, the company may have to revisit its partnership agreements or it will have a hard time convincing the European Commission that Android is all about "open innovation." Moreover, Walker's post doesn't address allegations of offering "financial incentives" towards pre-loading the Google suite of apps and services (then again, as a business, the company is free to do that), or the found evidence of the company's Anti Fragmentation Agreement "preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices based on a competing Android fork which had the potential of becoming a credible alternative to Google Android."

Technically, Google isn't breaking any laws or "playing dirty", and it has more than done its part to convince the users that Android is ripe for innovation. But its behavior towards partners appears to be more heavy-handed than the company is willing to admit, and the current implementation of its strategy to offset development costs by maximizing revenue ends up discouraging the competition. Technological progress is impossible without competitors giving their best, day and night, to out-innovate each other. No progress means stagnation and less choice for consumers. From this perspective, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager's concerns seem perfectly fair.

source: Google

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57 Comments

1. Carlitos

Posts: 628; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

The entire reasoning for the EU is complete BS honestly. Like stop hating, get over yourself, doesnt the EU have more pressing issues at hand?

2. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3935; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

IKR, why do they even care that Google pre loads it's own apps onto android phones.

15. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

European are a bit strange. they expect Google to give the OS free and not make sure they will make some money on the app used? I fully agree thats if you want to access google play store you have to put google service on the devices. For the rest of the acusation thats another story

22. Finalflash

Posts: 4062; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Well they have a point in some instances. For example, if you want Google Play, you need Google Services because it is built on that. That is a link that the Europeans do not like. MS was in trouble for something similar but far more shady when they linked Internet Explorer to Windows update. All the way to I think Windows 7, windows update would only run on internet explorer. That was BS because there was no need for that as seen with Windows 7/8/10, it was just there to force ppl to use windows explorer and have it on their computer. So they kind of have a point, but the fact that Apple also has the other part of this monopoly and can run roughshod over anything and everything is the sad part.

42. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

I forgot about that. The more I get reminded about what happened with MS...the more I think Google is gonna lose this...

43. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Like someone just posted recently....the Play Store is gonna wind up getting licensed separately because of this. This is Browser Ballot all over again....

47. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Have any sources of that? Please do share.

14. Mxyzptlk unregistered

I agree, the EU needs to get over it but then again this is Google. They're manipulative and anticompetitive. Like I said before, they favor Google Plus and YouTube when it comes to search results.

20. Finalflash

Posts: 4062; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Damn you're stupid. Of course they do, it is far easier to search through your own closet than someone else's. In the end, if the consumer gets the content they are searching for faster and more efficiently than otherwise, then that is all that matters. Otherwise you could have it like the good old days of altavista and metacrawler, where you search for cats and get walruses. If you want to go back to that, then by all mean, use bing search.

32. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Did you even read my comment? I don't think you did.

36. 2.5GHz

Posts: 270; Member since: Apr 03, 2016

We read your rant, and you were irrelevant, as usual.

34. 2.5GHz

Posts: 270; Member since: Apr 03, 2016

Well said. @FinalFlash. Mxy should learn some common sense from you.

3. cdgoin

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 28, 2010

Hmm.. Google and Apple want to do what they SUED MS for doing in the PC market.. what comes around goes around..

37. MartyK

Posts: 1043; Member since: Apr 11, 2012

How so? I don't see your comparison. MS OS you couldn't get a strip down version or open source one. They are arguing over access to a application store not a operating system. Those are two different beast.

4. An.Awesome.Guy

Posts: 636; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

Correct me if I am wrong but AFAIK Amazon or any other forked Android device can't use hardware materials including Qualcomm chips or Sony cameras because if they did then Google would refuse to put their apps (Youtube, Gmail...etc) on any other phone having that hardware part. In that case I think that is a dirty approach .

6. vincelongman

Posts: 5585; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Amazon can't use GMS (Youtube, Gmail...etc) since they wont preload some of Google's apps and pass Google's compatibilty test But Amazon can use any hardware they want, they are just chosing not to because of costs E.g. The Nokia X has a Qualcomm SoC

10. tedkord

Posts: 17047; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

That's not the case.

17. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

No limitation in hardware sorry but thats false.

38. 2.5GHz

Posts: 270; Member since: Apr 03, 2016

You're wrong, because Google doesn't prevent those who use forked Android from purchasing componets from any Android OEM.

5. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

'Murican companies think EU is the 52nd state of the US, and that they don't have the balls to fine the companies. Too bad. MS was first, now Google is next. Apple is lucky that they don't dominate in terms of market share.

52. Veigald

Posts: 290; Member since: Jan 13, 2012

Which is the 51st state then?

7. TerryTerius unregistered

Core truth still stands. You absolutely can build and run android devices without Google. That's what Xiaomi, Meizu, LeTv, Huawei (formerly), and others have been doing for quite a while. If I remember correctly, due to Google withdrawing from China a few years ago, the majority of Chinese devices running android don't have Google services installed on them. If other companies don't want to go that route, that's on them and not Google. I do understand the argument, but I just don't buy that Google is being anti-competitive by requiring that you use their services if you want the play store. Android and the Google play store are two separate things. So what, Google is supposed to give away their services as well all in the name of making it easier for companies who don't want to (or can't) make their own app stores or services? I'm sorry, but that's a failure on companies like Samsung, LG, HTC and so on and so forth if they can't manage to compete. Hell, there's nothing stopping any of those companies from dropping Google right now if they wanted and going the android route without the big G. So the EU is going to say that although companies are voluntarily choosing to sign up for Google services, they are then going to attack Google for promoting their own services on something they are offering which is completely optional? What kind of BS is that? Go after our companies for tax dodging or privacy concerns, I am on board with that. But I simply don't agree with saying that Google isn't allowed to sell its services as a suite. I think this is your absently being pissed that they don't have companies that can compete with Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. And that isn't our fault that they are filling in that regard.

8. TerryTerius unregistered

EU* failing* My bad for the typos. Dictation on iOS is terrible sometimes -_-

33. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Dictation on iOS worked just fine for me. Maybe your typing is what's the problem because some of us do type a lot faster than we think and don't tend to catch the mistakes at all.

41. TerryTerius unregistered

On my iPad Pro it is more problematic than on my 6S plus. But to be frank, either way I have more issues with it than I do on my S7 edge or when I had the 6P. I suspect that's partially because Google is heavily invested in understanding speech. But you are possibly right. That is true.

12. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

Oh right, they're fining Google so you make a large complaint here. I wonder if you'd even comment if they fined Apple or MS. "Our companies"...who is "our", and which companies do you own? " I think this is your absently being pissed that they don't have companies that can compete with Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. " Because they've never fined their own companies in the EU, right? The US government took things to the next level by meeting with companies at court for not handing out users data or invading user privacy. "http://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-​on-finance/2016/apr/20/theres-nothing-anti-america​n-about-eu-investigating-google"

13. TerryTerius unregistered

For one, this kind of complaint couldn't be applied to Apple or Microsoft right now, so It would depend on what they were being fined for. I have no problem with Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, or anyone else being charged when it comes to using Europe for the sake of dodging taxes or over privacy concerns. As I said that's legitimate. Something you completely seem to have glossed over. I said that I didn't agree with this particular charge. I get that you're trying to call me a fanboy, but I'm the last person that applies to homie. Any picture I took of the range of devices I use would prove that. Don't make assumptions of my character, and I won't do that of you. American companies, stop trying to make a fake point of contention for the sake of arguing with me. Never said they hadn't, but I am saying that this sudden wave seems a little suspect to me personally. That's not objective, just the way I feel about it. If you disagree with me, good for you. I really don't care.

16. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

Check out Google's anti competitive behaviour other than them putting their own apps then come back and tell me that the fines aren't legit.

18. TerryTerius unregistered

How about we agree to disagree. I really don't feel like getting into a pointless protracted argument in which neither one of us is going to give any ground. Enjoy your day. I mean that without any condescension or ill intent. Have fun.

30. avalon2105

Posts: 352; Member since: Jul 12, 2014

Google's problem is their market-share. Android is used in over 80% of mobile devices in EU, and Google is using that position to further increase their dominance in other areas (browser use, search engine use). I'm not calling you a fanboy or anything similar but Americans have a hard time realizing that EU protects USERS first and companies second. In the US it is other way around and corporate is deemed holy and untouchable. Simply put, Samsung phone must have two browsers because of Google's s**tty practices to the detriment of EU citizens. It doesn't matter if Google is US, EU, Japanese, Chinese, Korean or Zimbabwe company, Google is harming EU customers. You may not like it, but it is through and through monopoly abuse, and Big G should be punished.

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