By now i am sure everyone knows by now that Google has been hit with a massive $5 billion fine by the EU this week for Android antitrust violations. The European Commission is claiming that Google has been taking advantage of Android to impose its own services Google search, Chrome, and the Play Store upon consumers and device makers.
It’s a confusing case, so we’ve taken a few minutes to try to break things down here and ask some of the bigger questions about what’s going on that people either have missed or should’ve asked. Here’s what’s going on with Google and the EU.
What exactly did Google do wrong here?
In short, the European Commission has ruled that Google has been unfairly using Android (which Google owns and develops) to push Google search (which makes up most of Google’s business) on users, giving them an unfair advantage. Specifically, its three things:
- Google requires device makers to include search and Chrome in order to have access to the Play Store and other Google apps and services.
- Google “made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators” to exclusively bundle the Google search app on handsets in favor of other search engines.
- Google has allegedly blocked phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android. In other words, in order to get any Google apps including the Play Store and Google search phone makers had to agree not to develop or sell any devices at all that ran on an Android fork (like Amazon’s Fire OS for tablets).
If search is the problem, why is Chrome included?
At first glance, the EU’s ruling against forcing Google Chrome on users seems to be unfair. What does Google’s dominance with search have to do with a web browser? But Chrome is an essential avenue to Google search, so Chrome is bundled into the ruling, too.
What do other companies think?
For the most part, nothing. Various Android OEMs, including Samsung, LG,, One-Plus, Nokia, BlackBerry, and Amazon, said they had “No Comment on the matter” with HTC adding that it will “defer to Google on decisions that impact the broader Android OS.
What happens next?
Google has 90 days to comply with the European Commission, which would mean paying the $5 billion fine, stop forcing manufacturers to pre-install Chrome and Google search in order to offer the Google Play Store, and stop preventing phone makers from using forked versions of Android. Google is already appealing the result, so we’ll see if that actually ends up happening, but if it does, it could mean drastic changes for how Android operates in the future.