Google’s Pre-Loaded Android Apps Target Of EU Competition Probe

Image courtesy of Great Beyond

While Android smartphones may allow you to install all manner of apps that compete with the pre-installed Google products like Maps, Gmail and its namesake search engine, is the fact that these apps are required to come pre-loaded on Android devices hurting competition and innovation just to benefit Google’s bottom line? That’s the question being asked by the European Commissioner for Competition.

“When we take a new smartphone out of its box, we want it to be ready to go straight away,” explains Margrethe Vestager in her announcement of the Google investigation. “We expect the maker – or the network operator – to make sure the basic apps, like a search app, are pre-loaded before it gets to us.”

The Commissioner contends that Google’s exclusive contracts for manufacturers wishing to produce and sell Android products, require that these devices include certain pre-loaded Google apps. This can include the Google Play app store, through which many Android apps are purchased and downloaded.

However, a rep for Google claims in a statement to Reuters that, “Anyone can use Android with or without Google applications. Hardware manufacturers and carriers can decide how to use Android and consumers have the last word about which apps they want to use.”

But as the Wall Street Journal notes, if a manufacturer wants to include any Google apps on their devices, Google requires that a folder of 11 apps be pre-installed and that they be located within one flick of the home screen.

In addition to the money Google has made from licenses and selling apps and content through its Play services, the company is also bringing in around $11 billion a year from advertising on mobile devices.

Vestager worries that, with so much riding on its own apps, Google may be putting up roadblocks that reduce the odds of competing, possibly better and more innovative, software from reaching consumers.

If the Commission ultimately rules against Google, it could mean billions in penalties for the online giant.

Google is already under investigation in the EU over claims that it may be unfairly favoring its own comparison-shopping service in search results.

Vestager stressed in her statement today that investigations are ongoing and no conclusions have been reached thus far.

“In spare rooms all across Europe right now, people are putting their time and savings into building the next Amazon, the next Google, the next Facebook. And the last thing we should do is to tell them we disapprove of those companies’ success,” explained the Commissioner. “On the contrary, we should tell them success is welcome – but the right way for a big company to stay successful is to keep competing, to keep innovating. Not to misuse its power to stop others from innovating.”

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