Antitrust response. Android apps such as Chrome, Gmail etc will require device makers in Europe to pay licence fee
Android device makers in Europe will be impacted by a licensing change from Google, that comes in response to a record antitrust fine.
Google is changing the way it licenses its suite of Android apps in Europe, leading the company to charge a licensing fee for the Play Store and other Google apps for the first time.
Google was hit with a record $5bn antitrust fine in July from the European Commission after a three-year investigation. The EC ordered Google to stop “illegally tying” Chrome and search apps to Android.
The Commission had alleged that Google forced device makers to include Chrome and Google Search if they place the Play Store app store on devices.
It also alleged that Google broke competition laws by barring phone makers from selling official Android phones if they also sell devices that run customised versions of the software.
Google of course still disagrees with this, and last week it filed an appeal against that decision, but in the meantime it is making some changes to the way device makers will be able to bundle Google apps and services on their devices.
“We believe that Android has created more choice, not less,” blogged Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior VP Platforms & Ecosystems. “That’s why last week we filed our appeal of the Commission’s decision at the General Court of the European Union.”
“At the same time, we’ve been working on how to comply with the decision,” he wrote.
So Google is now offering three options for Android device makers.
From 29 October, it will allow Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps to also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the European Economic Area (EEA).
The second change will allow device manufacturers to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser.
However, Google said that as the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with its other apps helped it fund the development and free distribution of Android, it will have to introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA.
That said, it stressed that the Android OS “will remain free and open source.”
The third change will see Google offer separate licenses to the Google Search app and to Chrome.
“We’ll also offer new commercial agreements to partners for the non-exclusive pre-installation and placement of Google Search and Chrome,” wrote Lockheimer. “As before, competing apps may be pre-installed alongside ours.”
All of these changes will come into force in Europe from 29 October, Google said.
Google officially released the latest flavour of its mobile operating system, namely Android 9 Pie, in early August.
Pie was the ninth major version of Android and take over from Android 8 (Oreo), which was released back in August 2017.