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European Commission Fines Google a Record €4.34 Billion for ‘Illegal Practices Regarding Android Mobile Devices to Strengthen Dominance of Google’s Search Engine’

European Commission press release:

The European Commission has fined Google €4.34 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules. Since 2011, Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general internet search.

That’s the largest fine in EU antitrust history.

In particular, Google:

  • has required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome), as a condition for licensing Google’s app store (the Play Store);

  • made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices; and

  • has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google (so-called “Android forks”).

My first take on this is that Google ought to be able to do these things. I largely disagreed with the US antitrust case against Microsoft back in the ’90s too, and in broad strokes the charges are remarkably similar. Bundling IE with Windows and declaring the browser to be part of the OS was a big part of that case. I think it’s right that a modern OS has a built-in system browser.

What gets me, though, is Google’s decade-long hypocrisy about Android being “open”. What a pile of horseshit.

Update: After some thought, I do agree with the EU on the forks clause. As one reader wrote:

If I am a licensee for the commercial version of an open source thing, it’s actually farcical to punish me for building other products with the open source base, but it’s also unethical.

This clause is highly comparable to the MS Windows licensing clause that forced PC manufacturers to pay for a Windows licence for every Windows-compatible PC they sold. It’s nasty.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018