back to article Official: EU goes after Google, alleges it uses Android to kill competition

The EU's competition authority thinks it has a smoking gun against Google. Consumers suffered because Google’s contracts with phone OEMs prevented the market from creating a better Android, the EU Commission alleged today. It has sent a formal Statement of Objections to Google that forces Google to come up with remedies or …

  1. alain williams Silver badge

    Alternate operating systems

    with a bit of luck this will open up phones so that it will be easier to either order them with a different OS or install one - so things like CyanogenMod will become more common and easier to install.

    1. WonkoTheSane

      Re: Alternate operating systems

      The WileyFox Storm & Swift come with Cyanogenmod out of the box.

      https://www.wileyfox.com/

      1. S4qFBxkFFg

        Re: Alternate operating systems

        CyanogenMod != CyanogenOS

        I discovered this shortly after buying a Swift, various shenanigans were required to root the thing but CyanogenMod comes pre-rooted.

        In the end I just replaced CyanogenOS with CyanogenMod because a rooted CyanogenOS won't accept OTA updates.

        Personally, if I was in charge of this stuff for the EU, I'd make the phone retailers sell them with just enough of a bootloader to select and download an OS as part of the setup process.

        The following operating systems are available for your device; please select one:

        Windows 11.05.253 Mobile (by Microsoft)

        Android 7.01.028 (by Google)

        Android 7.01.028 (by Amazon)

        Android 7.01.028 (by RIM)

        Android 7.01.028 (by Naeem's 24 hour Barbershop and Phone/PC repair)

        Firefox OS (by Mozilla)

        1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

          Re: Alternate operating systems

          Thanks for that useful info, I was tempted by a Swift. But if I have to change the OS to stay up to date I may as well do that with the S5mini I already have.

          By the way, glad to see you got your keyboard fixed since registering your account name.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Alternate operating systems

            Hi Gotno ISWI

            my wileyfox has cyeanogenOS on it, which updates itself "Over-The-Air" (OTA).. I believe what the previous poster was refering to was that it stops doing OTA updates if you root your phone.

            I can't confirm or deny this as my phone isn't rooted (haven't found a reason to do so yet - cyanogenOS really is very flexible)

            If you are looking at the swift I can strongly recommend it :) battery is good enough to still have some juice at the end of the day, takes micro-sd cards + 2 sim cards, battery is replaceable, I've dropped it a few times and no cracks in the glass so far, haven't had any issues with speed, mine came with a screenprotector already applied :)

            one downside: The microSD port is a little bit recessed, not all your microUSB cables will fit completely - I have some that do and some that don't.. the one that comes with it works a treat, so did the anker cables that I bought:

            https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anker%C2%AE-5-Pack-Premium-Assorted-Lengths/dp/B00QT2BLC4

        2. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Alternate operating systems

          Is this not a wish to express to your phone supplier? It seems to have little to do with Google other than as the hypothetical provider of the underlying OS in most of the examples. Whether any phone provider or manufacturer cares to develop, test, and provide their customers with such choices is something for them to decide.

          Arguably, it is for Google to decide whether they will develop and test GMS on operating systems that they do not develop, and ultimately provide operability assurances to those who offer it on their phones. If they did not do that it would be on the phone manufacturer and provider to do the work, in addition to porting NonAndroid to the hardware and assuring its operation with their network, to insure correct operation of either Google GSM or other services they might want to substitute. It is not entirely obvious that they would wish do do that, or why.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Alternate operating systems

            >Is this not a wish to express to your phone supplier?

            @ Tom dial

            Google doesn't allow a phone vendor to use Google Play Services if said vendor also sells phones running a fork of the Android Open Source.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alternate operating systems

      I'm currently sporting a wileyfox swift with cyanogenos - I wouldn't mind getting an iphone with cyanogenos so that I could share chargers with the girlfriend :)

      Or she could get a wilefox too (we have more micro usb chargers than lightning ones) and we could install ios on it.

      For those that think that sounds crazy, stop and have a think about why you believe that its normal for hardware to be tied to software.

    3. Argh

      Re: Alternate operating systems

      If they get rid of the compatibility tests, it will also make it fun to try and find apps that work as expected with your phone. Back to the good old days of early Android. Those apps with embedded maps? They won't work on phones without the maps APIs. You want to monetise? You'll need to implement a load of different payment APIs for all the stores.

      A lot of the APIs were moved in to other services from core Android, so that they could be updated without a full firmware update. That's pretty important as a lot of carriers and manufacturers rarely provide firmware updates.

      Ideally (from my point of view) they'd move even more of them out so that even more security and other bug fixes could be easily fixed. For example, the stagefright bugs weren't able to be fixed without a firmware update, as they were in the core OS.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        A lot of the APIs were moved in to other service

        Exactly - just to get access to those APIs you need to enter a license agreement with Google because they are not part of the core and open source Android...

      2. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: A lot of the APIs were moved in to other services from core Android

        ...so that they could be updated without a full firmware update. That's pretty important as a lot of carriers and manufacturers rarely provide firmware updates.

        The solution to this problem (carriers and manufacturers not providing updates) is to cut out the middle men and have an update mechanism that works without them. I don't expect my internet provider to manage pc updates for me, why should my mobile provider be updating my phone?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @sabroni - Re: A lot of the APIs were moved in to other services from core Android

          because your phone is locked by your mobile provider and/or your mobile manufacturer while your PC is not yet (but it will very soon be).

        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: A lot of the APIs were moved in to other services from core Android

          >The solution to this problem (carriers and manufacturers not providing updates) is to cut out the middle men and have an update mechanism that works without them. I don't expect my internet provider to manage pc updates for me, why should my mobile provider be updating my phone?

          There are technical reasons why that is not possible with Android. If it could be done, Google would have done it already. Moving more APIs to Google Play services is a half-way house (but may slso serve their business motives by differentiating Google Android from ASOP). Google's other OS, ChromeOS, is updated as required, and when buying the hardware you are told how many years it will be updated for.

          1. sabroni Silver badge

            re: There are technical reasons why that is not possible with Android.

            No. There are business reasons why that's not possible on android. Google are clever, if they wanted an update mechanism everyone could use they'd make one.

            1. Jon 37

              Re: re: There are technical reasons why that is not possible with Android.

              You're right that it's business reasons, but it's not Google's fault. It's the carriers, and to a lesser extend the phone vendors.

              Google makes a release of Android.

              The phone manufacturers take that firmware, and customize it for each model they have. They add drivers etc to make it work. Then they add different (their marketing people would claim "improved") launchers, camera apps, etc, so that if you use it it's a bit different from the other Androids (and the shop salespeople can claim it's "better".

              Then the mobile phone networks (carriers) decide which phones they'll sell and subsidise. In exchange for selling a phone, they'll ask the phone manufacturers to make a few changes. The obvious ones are to load the right settings so it works on their network, but they'll also ask for their app to be preloaded, custom branded backgrounds, etc etc

              So you end up with a LOT of different variants of each phone.

              Then a new Android version is released, or even a patch, then they have to do all that customization work again...

              It's a lot simpler in, say, Windows where there are only 2 versions (x86 and x64) so MS only have to build 2 versions of a patch. Although MS probably have to do a lot more testing.

  2. heyrick Silver badge

    Doesn't the use of a non official Android

    Man that all the DRM guff instantly stops working?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Utter eu bollocks

    Come to china an get a xaiomi

  4. hplasm Silver badge
    Stop

    Why don't the EU

    Bing off?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Why don't the EU

      Well of course, after all screwing your opponents via secretive contracts gives us all a much better deal, eh?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Paul - Re: Why don't the EU

        Who are those opponents ? Apple or Microsoft ?

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: @Paul - Why don't the EU

          Those "opponents" are any of the phone makers who might dare to fork Android or offer variations in terms of search, location, etc, that would reduce Google's advert revenue-generation opportunities.

          You know, the sort of competition that normally benefits consumers.

    2. joed

      Re: Why don't the EU

      or look closely at Windows 10 MS' monoculture and upgrade "choice" presented to users of older systems. As usual EU will wake up to late to make any difference (besides PR).

  5. Rob Crawford

    If Google have a monopoly due to the play store then what have Apple got with their app store?

    I can choose to purchase software from alternate stores and frequently do (from Amazon for example and Samsung when they had their awful option and I had a Samsung phone)

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      The commisioner was very clear that they see Apple completely differently. Apple sell devices that have an OS on, they don't provide that OS to other manufacturer's. In this case Google are seen as more like MS than Apple. It's the pressure on the other manufacturers to exclude competing services that is the problem.

      If Apple had a monopoly on handset sales then the EU would doubtless look at them. With their current market share they're safe. (And Apple wouldn't want everyone to have an iPhone, that'd ruin the cachet.)

      1. hellwig Silver badge

        So you're saying

        If Google forced all Handset manufacturers installing Android to badge their phones under the Google brand, that would be OK?

        Google Galaxy S7 by Samsung, Google G5 by LG, etc...?

        I think the EU would quickly change their position if there were only Google and Apple phones on the market.

        Nothing is stopping manufacturers from making non-Android phones, but in order to preserve the user experience, Google requires certain functionality to make Android work. People want that Google functionality without having to pay Google royalties (in the form of included search and app store, the ONLY way Google monetizes Android).

        "I want the Google Play Store, and Google Search, and Google Maps, but jeese, I hate that my OS says Google everywhere. Why can't it say my companies name instead, but still rely 100% on Google doing the legwork behind the scenes? For FREE!"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So you're saying

          "I want the Google Play Store, and Google Search, and Google Maps, but jeese, I hate that my OS says Google everywhere. Why can't it say my companies name instead, but still rely 100% on Google doing the legwork behind the scenes? For FREE!"

          Well, that's the price you pay for pretending it's Open Source. It either is, or it is not, and as far as I can tell it Google's statement on this matter ("It's Open Source, aren't we lovely? Remember when we're in court, we do not do evil,. honest, trust us") appear to be substantially at odds with reality.

          Which is, in my opinion, yet another example of Google following the Microsoft decades long playbook to the letter.

        2. fuzzie
          Unhappy

          Re: So you're saying

          What other OS options do the manufacturers have? Not iOS, not Blackberry's. So it's effectively Windows Phone or an Android fork such as FireOS or CyanogenMod? Unfortunately, Google's term forbid them from selling non-Google approved Android, so there goes that. Google would probably classify SailfishOS as an Android fork. All the above explains why OEM's are stuck and can't afford to rock the boat.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: So you're saying

            >What other OS options do the manufacturers have? Not iOS, not Blackberry's.

            Well, you've just identified an area where the idea of competition breaks down. You can't have true like-for-like competition for thing like bus services, cos that would mean that every half hour three buses from different companies turn up at the same bus stop. Software support for OSs is similar - much wasted work (inefficient) to supply users with much the same application but for various OSs.

            Another example is eBay - sellers want the most people possible to bid on their goods, so why would they advertise on another service? The very nature of eBay precludes competition.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        The notion that Apple would not want everyone to choose an iPhone is absurd. They don't care about the "cachet," they care about the money.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          Cachet = higher profits on each unit

  6. Eric Olson

    It's funny...

    We see this same tale spun over and over, with the only change in players the companies in the crosshairs. Being an American, I could decree this some kind of anti-American witch hunt by the EU, but I actually doubt that's the case. More likely, this is down to American companies not having the expertise and/or connections in other parts of the world to ensure they are complying with both the letter and spirit of the law.

    Yes, Microsoft got busted in the US for anti-competitive behavior, but it was so egregious, they pretty much dared the Dept. of Justice to come after them. It didn't help MS that many of their competitors, partners, and customers complained loudly and frequently about the raw deal they were getting. Google has skated by for the most part, as Apple actually maintains a strong market position in the US, and the wireless carriers are the ones with targets painted on their backs. If the political capital is going to be spent, Verizon and AT&T are first on the firing line.

    Did Google sin? Perhaps. The US doesn't seem to have a problem with the kind of agreements that Google engaged in as long as there are other competitors or other avenues for relief. Anti-trust penalties are often a last resort, and as we saw with MS, they often amount to little more than painful handshake. The days of trust busting of AT&T, Standard Oil, etc. are long gone. Not because of crony capitalism (though I'm sure that doesn't help), but because it's too easy to point across the ocean and say that in order to compete worldwide, American companies are going against state-controlled or state-supported, entrenched entities (how true that is is a debate for another time).

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: It's funny...

      The problem in US is that politicians are too afraid to touch the companies that feed them... since a cap to founding politicians was declared illegal, and politicians costs skyrocketed (more than one year of presidential campaign? Are you kidding? Cut it to one-two months and costs will be hugely cut as well), politicians need to find funds, and some rich companies will be happy to fund them, as long as they don't enforce any anti-trust rule (or others) on them. Sherman will be rolling in his grave...

      1. Eric Olson

        Re: It's funny...

        It's too easy to just blame money. We had a public financing system (still do, technically), but it's been superseded because the amounts are not that great and there are limitations placed on the candidate in terms of what can be done with it.

        Additionally, one needs to keep in mind that the parties, though that participate in the political sphere, are private entities. The GOP and Democrats are just really large special interest groups, albeit with a special interest in being political parties with platforms that cover more than just a single issue. The "year-long" process is actually the nomination fight, which replaced the proverbial smoke-filled room. In fact, states purposefully started sponsoring the nomination primaries in the late 19th century to reduce the influence (and corruption) inherent in the party machine. Tammany Hall in New York was notorious for trading favors and money for political capital and nominations.

        The actual general election is only a few months long, starting with the conventions in July and culminating on Election Day in November.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Eric Olson - Re: It's funny...

          When someone says it's not about the money it actually is about the money.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: It's funny...

        Darn that pesky old 1791 first amendment, only a couple of years younger than the All Writs Act, so clearly of dubious applicability now we are in the Internet Age and so much smarter than those of the late eighteenth century who wrote and passed it.

        1. Eric Olson

          Re: It's funny...

          Darn that pesky old 1791 first amendment, only a couple of years younger than the All Writs Act, so clearly of dubious applicability now we are in the Internet Age and so much smarter than those of the late eighteenth century who wrote and passed it.

          Not sure where the First Amendment comes in here, unless you are referring to the reinterpretation by the Roberts Court that money = speech. If that's the case, then I'm still not sure the applicability to my comments, so I assume it was to someone else.

          But to build on this, this concept that the Founders and Framers (often overlapping, but not always the same) were infallible and prophetic does need to cool down a bit. If you read source documents from the time, you see a very quick schism appear as to what the Constitution represented or codified, and that fight resulted in the Bill of Rights being introduced just two years after the Constitution was ratified, and the Bill of Rights itself being ratified two years after introduction (after going through numerous drafts, revisions, edits, and by some accounts, sloppy version control and copying). The All Writs Act is another example of those Founders and Framers quickly trying to do an end-around of the Constitution they created; the Sedition Act is an even more abhorrent example. That the very same men who created this Godly document also turned around and created such things should really close the book on any discussion about their exceptional nature or intelligence.

          It's a document, written 229 years ago, quickly ignored by its creators when it suited them, and began a simmering battle of the role of the state and the government that has boiled over once and had to be settled with blood. You don't need to get into revisionism based on current standards of morality to see that the document only works because we collectively ignore all the mechanisms available to keep it alive and instead rely on hacks, ancient case law, and legal landmines. It's honestly reached a point where, like the Cold War, mutually assured destruction is all that keeps the peace.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's funny...

      You don't sound free-market fundamentalist to be a real American.

      However if you are, you should get out ASAP before you're outed as a Europe sympathising communist.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Eric Olson - Re: It's funny...

      Microsoft got busted in the US ? You don't say! When did this happen ?

    4. fuzzie

      Re: It's funny...

      I'd argue that few, even the large companies, don't appreciate the subtle differences in US vs EU anti-trust regulation. Any move by government in the US against a company is quickly viewed as socialist or government overreach into the free market. That perception and the cosy revolving door between large companies and regulatory agencies, have effectively neutered effective enforcement. The US measure of "public good" is often just "price".

      The EU, with its slightly more social democratic approach, is not that shy to employ regulatory intervention to guide the "hidden hand" of the free market. My impression at least is that the EU prefers having smaller, competing companies compared to the behemoths popular and so admired in the US. As a side-effect, it helps limit the proliferation of "too big to fail" entities.

    5. MrTuK

      Re: It's funny...

      Intelligent comment !

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So MS has got its knickers in a twist and called out all the 'little people' to complain about Android. Maybe the commission should look at the large investments that MS has in such companies as CyanogenMod and the others.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely Apple uses iOS to stifle competition too?

    Nuff said

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Surely Apple uses iOS to stifle competition too?

      Apple has no dominant position in the EU. Google has.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @LDS - Re: Surely Apple uses iOS to stifle competition too?

        Why is Google dominant ? Nobody forces phone makers to install Android, they could use Windows which Microsoft begs them to take a look at.

        1. fuzzie

          Re: @LDS - Surely Apple uses iOS to stifle competition too?

          They're not stopping them from shipping Windows Phones phone, but they are stopping them from shipping any other Android variants which would, arguably, have a good chance of competing. See how no-one, apart for Oppo which was a new company for that purpose, have shipped CyanogenMod phone. They were forced to give in a license GMS to create CyanogenOS (which is just a skinned Android like Sense, TouchWiz, etc).

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Surely Apple uses iOS to stifle competition too?

      Nah.

      Google needs Apple who needs Google. Otherwise the Anti-trust people would be wetting their knickers all hot and bothered about getting one/both in the dock and facing very large fines.

      MS is a mere bit part player and that is not the fault of the other two. MS have been shooting themselves in the foot quite regularly over their mobile business for a number of years. Shame really because it (and it pains me to say this) the hardware ain't all that bad.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surely Apple uses iOS to stifle competition too?

      Apple aren't forcing manufacturers to ship 3rd party hardware with Apple software.

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Big Brother

    colour me surprised.

    Google isn't shouting that there's plenty of competition in the form of apple, winphone (stop sniggering), blackberry, Firefox os (if that's still a thing), jumla and sail fish.

    Not that you can walk into your local phone shop and walk out with any of them bar apple and winphone.....

    So there's loads of competition and besides, look Europe we're literally giving away android licences and throwing money at vendors surely that's a good thing?

    Yep, no problem here. None at all.....

    (ol' BB because Google know everything and wants you to be happy.

    WAR IS PEACE

    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

    )

  10. TJ1

    Google not so astute

    This has been so obviously on the cards for a long time; the parallels with the antitrust convictions of Microsoft between 1994-2013 are striking.

    I'm just amazed that Google management refused to see this and amend their agreements a long time ago.

    If they'd done that and competed on excellence and support for OEMs (including developing a unified patch/update C.I. pipeline) the EU would have been satisfied but the market would in all likelyhood have still overwhelming choosen the Google flavour.

    1. ChunkyMonkey

      Re: Google not so astute

      I'm not sure about that. It's a waiting game. This will go on for many, many years. The whole of Europe will have changed (hopefully for the better) by then and in the meantime, there is 10 years of revenue coming in. Unlikely any fine will create a dent in that, and plenty of time for the Google Car to come online and drive you around continually asking for your life story and offing to sell you sh*t on route.

      Unfortunately I think they are very astute and EVIL!

    2. ST Silver badge

      Re: Google not so astute

      > I'm just amazed that Google management refused to see this and amend their agreements a long time ago.

      I don't think they refused to see it; I suspect they were hoping that either the EU won't take any action, or that if it did, they could bullshit their way out of it.

      And now that it happened, Google will try bullshitting their way out of it, at least at first.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Google not so astute

        I don't think they refused to see it; I suspect they were hoping that either the EU won't take any action, or that if it did, they could bullshit their way out of it.

        And now that it happened, Google will try bullshitting their way out of it, at least at first.

        Yup, it truly has become Microsoft v2. Exactly the same modus operandi: first they flash-expand their business by ignoring any law that gets in the way of making a profit, and when called on it it will go all "poor me, look how the bad EU is trying to hurt US business" on us. Well, screw that.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Google not so astute

      The true issue is that Google has to ensure Android funnels user data through Google services, not through competitors one.

      Using open source was a strategy to cut down development costs of the OS itself and the tooling to develop, while looking "good" the the FOSS fanboys (good PR for free) - but of course the real money doesn't come from handset sales or license fees, they come from user data and advertising. Thereby any fork that bypasses Google funnels is dangerous to the Google core business - which is not making a mobile OS.

      After all, that closely reminds the MS case - MS wanted Windows anywhere because it would have sustained the sales of its other products being able to set the game rules- especially when having a full knowledge of protocols and formats denied to others (that EU ruling against it was IMHO even more important than the IE/MediaPlayer one), Google wants its Android everywhere because it does sustain all those data gathering and advertising activities it needs.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not like the EU has a history of fostering competition

    I'm not a Google fan, but it's not like the EU has a history of fostering competition. It's history is one of creating trade barriers under the guise of environmental protection and such. All the more reason for Britain to exit.

    1. Captain Queeg

      Re: It's not like the EU has a history of fostering competition

      Hmm, you have an agenda then? Just because you say it doesn't make it totally factual does it.

      Maybe I say the EU has a history of challenging Monopolistic behaviour - and of course it can because of it's scale.

      All the more reason to be IN.

      Isn't balance great. ;-)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ubuntu Phone

    European Phone software

    European Phone manufacturer

    EU smoking gun looks very much like a less than dry squib.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Ubuntu Phone

      Nice argument but...

      Can I go into a phone shop on the high st and buy one?

      Nope.

      That sort of makes it irrelevant does it not?

      What market % does it have?

      Probably not on the EU's radar.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Steve Davies 3 - Re: Ubuntu Phone

        And you strongly believe that Google should force phone shops to offer Ubuntu phones ?

        Microsoft offering financial incentives PC manufacturers to install Windows has never been considered illegal.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Ubuntu Phone

        If you can't go to a phone store on the high street and buy a non-Android, non-Apple, non-Microsoft smart phone, why is that Google's fault or Apple's? Could Canonical not do something similar to those three and offer a phone with integrated app store, etc. to the public and see what uptake they get? Or did they and got told, effectively, to pound salt?

        As Microsoft and RIM apparently found, there is a strong first mover effect in many areas that may take years or decades to overcome. Google probably could eliminate those provisions the EU Competition Commissar finds most onerous with very little change in outcome.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Ubuntu Phone

        "Can I go into a phone shop on the high st and buy one?"

        Do you have to go into phone shops to buy phones nowadays? Last time I looked you could buy them online.

    2. Mephistro Silver badge

      Re: Ubuntu Phone (@ AC)

      The way I read it, the problem comes with the combination of a quasi-monopoly in the mobile market OS plus another one in the apps market, the fact that these two monopolies overlap almost totally, and the ways G is trying to use these two monopolies for gain.

      Google is trying to reinforce the synergies between both monopolies with less-than-terribly-etyhical (or downright illegal) strategies; e.g. GMS, MADA & AFA.

      Regarding your example, any mobe maker that dares to pre-install or even give as an option an Ubuntu Phone OS could face severe retaliation from Google.

      In the long term, monopolies and oligopolies are really dangerous. In this case, I'd go with the heavy-handed approach and give Google a good reason for not being evil! ;-)

  13. thondwe

    And Microsoft/Apple are different how?

    So Windows 10 comes with Bing and Apple do their own thing, so are the EU going to try this with MS/Apple? MS have been trying to get rid of Bloatware, and the EU want Google to allow it?

    Be far happier if the EU said to Apple (e.g.) - all default apps must be capable of being replaceable with 3rd party options (which then become the default)?

    Tis all Bonkers

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Tis all Bonkers

      No, it's not. MS have already had large fines imposed by the EU for exactly this sort of thing. Apple don't provide their OS to anyone else and don't have a large enough market share for the commission to consider them. Google provide the OS that is on the majority of modern phones, making this situation very similar to MS and Windows.

  14. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    Others?

    It is common practice in the mobile space to bundle the main services with the phone. Microsoft and Apple do this, too. Apple go even further in barring inclusion of other apps which could replace their own in their app stores.

    The only difference between Apple and Google in this regard is that Apple only offer their mobile OS on their own devices, whereas Google "force" these rules on other companies who wish to build an Android phone.

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: Others?

      If Google decided to follow Apple into large scale mobile manufacturing and refuse to licence anything to competitors, I wonder what the EU reaction would be? Massively disruptive but completely moving them outside the scope of this action. Would they like the result, a monopoly where only Apple and China get to compete at all and no EU oem receives any share of Android income?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        @Paul Shirley

        If Google started making its own phones and refused to license, the problem would self correct because they wouldn't have that large majority of the market that Apple doesn't control.

        There are three primary reasons for Android's success today. One, Google made it free, back when it cost money to license a phone OS. Two, Google allowed OEMs to customize it by adding their own UI details to try to build some brand identity (i.e. using a Samsung isn't quite the same as using a LG, even when both are Android underneath)

        Three, and most importantly, when Apple turned the smartphone world upside down and made every other phone look like a rotary dial by comparison, Google was able to execute a quick 180 and get their own modern touch UI version out before anyone else did. Perhaps it was dumb luck that the major competition of the time (Nokia, Blackberry and Microsoft) was too stupid to recognize the need to do this until it was too late, but their failure to see the future left the playing field wide open for Android phones. By the time the others caught on, it was too late.

        Had Nokia introduced a competitive touchscreen UI within a year of Android's late 2008 release, I suspect the outcome would have been very different, with Nokia today owning a large segment of the market. The EU wouldn't be going after Google because they wouldn't have a majority of the market, let alone the 90% or whatever it is they have in the EU.

        1. Captain Queeg

          @DougS

          Great to read and a more or less perfect analogy from what I can see. Android licensees needed to beware of greeks bearing gifts, but weren't.

          I doubt Nokia or anyone else could have turned it round because the "free" element of Android ensured an armada of competing hardware manufacturers. The squabbling and in fighting that defined Symbian probably laid out how any sort of device federation would have worked.

          Not that I blame them - the choice was really Android of oblivion, look how things have turned out for cash rich and cashflow positive businesses like MS and Blackberry.

        2. Paul Shirley

          Re: @DougS

          What many Reg commenters persistently forget is the general public don't have a rabid hatred of Google, they actually like the apps and plumbing so many here have problems with. Years of using AOSP ROMS made it clear very few CyanogenMod etc. users are doing it to escape Google. What they're escaping is the clutching hand of the phone OEMs and carrier customisation.

          It's easy to forget the liberties carriers took with phones before Android and regaining that control would be a disaster for users. This EU complaint is misdirected if the reward is simply a choice of which blend of crapware your device ships with. If action leads to anything more than compulsory windows style ballot screens on app use (something Android has already built in BTW) power will shift firmly from users to suppliers and not in a beneficial way for users.

          What the actual complainants are fighting for is the right to fsck up your phone before you even see it. Google did pretty well with nearly stock Android while they owned Motorola, it's not obvious they need the phone businesses help any longer.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: @DougS

            Paul Shirley - the days when the carriers "took liberties" with phones in the days before the iPhone and Android were dark indeed. But trading a bunch of little kings in the form of carriers "taking liberties" in their own best interest for one big king in the form of Google doing the same in their own best interest is a worse deal. At least with carriers there are plenty to choose from. There is only one king in Google's Android ecosystem.

            Android is open, except where Google doesn't want it to be. In those places it is walled off every bit as much as iOS, and it is being done for purely financial reasons, to support and enhance Google's data collection and advertising empire. You can argue that Apple sucks because (for example) browsers have to use WebKit, but it is hard to argue this is being done to make Apple richer. Maybe you think their reasons are misguided or wrong, but not allowing a "proper" Firefox on iPhone isn't making Apple any money. When Google blocked on day one and continues to block (again, for example) alternative location services, that's purely because they don't want ANY competition in the ability to collect and sell data on their users.

            Does the average person know or care about this? Of course, they just want a device that calls, texts, runs Facebook and Snapchat, and so on. If it costs less they aren't going to care to ask why that is, or maybe even care if told. Likewise, they didn't know or care about how their phone was being limited by their carrier a decade ago. It did what they wanted - what they understood a phone of 2006 was capable of which aside from calling and texting and taking 1 megapixel photos if they were lucky, was "not much".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Others?

      I just searched the Apple App store for alternative Email clients. Apple ship their mail app with an idevice.

      Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo mail CloudMagic and many others are there for you to download and use.

      So perhaps, you statement about Apple barring inclusion of other apps... might not be entirely true?

      1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        Re: Others?

        "So perhaps, you statement about Apple barring inclusion of other apps... might not be entirely true?"

        Perhaps I just wasn't specific enough, or perhaps I have misunderstood articles on the matter.

        I have, however, read several articles stating that a particular app has been removed from the App Store for no apparent reason other than Apple want them to use their own version.

        If I'm wrong, fair enough. I don't use Apple devices at all, so have only ever paid mild attention to these matters.

    3. Aedile

      Re: Others?

      That's probably only because Apple won't even allow others to build an OSX/iOS phone or they would also force these rules on other companies.

    4. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: Others?

      I think Android's problem is that they're open source (ish) and have therefore given their clients some rights that they strictly didn't need to, but they've then turned round and made it thoroughly impractical to exercise those rights.

      Paradoxically, the best course of action is for them to just close up the platform and turn the whole thing into a binary blob.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Others?

        I believe Apple are making their own apps "removable" in the next iOS, but have stated that they have difficulty doing that because of the need to provide the API in the OS for data passing up and down consistently between the silo'ed applications. There's no guarantee that replacing, say, mail with snazzymail will allow safe and complete passage of data into the iOS layer and back out again.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Others?

          Why would Apple need to make their own apps removable? I can install any number of Mail apps today, the only thing missing would be setting it up so if I click on a link it will use Mail+ or whatever instead of the default app.

          Anyway, the EU doesn't care about this because Apple has what, 10% of the EU market? You can't abuse a monopoly position in the market if you don't have (and aren't even close to) a monopoly position in the market. Unlike Google, Apple does not have a vast advertising business that iOS is designed to direct traffic to, they have their own ad network you can use in your apps but it exists only for convenience for app writers who don't want to deal with third parties and just want the ad revenue without the hassle.

      2. fuzzie

        Re: Others?

        There's very little of what you expect from a commercially viable phone left is AOSP. Google has left most of the standard apps to rot as they moved more and more functionality into their own apps and into GMS. Manufacturers don't have an option, but to ship all the apps Google demand, and that list has also been growing over time. One could view that as a very elaborate and systematic bait'n'switch and as its market share grew, the manufacturers' options for alternative evaporated.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Others?

        "Paradoxically, the best course of action is for them to just close up the platform and turn the whole thing into a binary blob."

        That would require them to replace all the GPL-licenced stuff with something else, probably BSD.

  15. tiggity Silver badge

    meh

    If someone wants to fork android they can

    Amazon forked android to create Fire OS - (some abdroid apps run on it, some don't so incompatible in gogle terms) it's not android branded, & they have their own store "ecosystem"

    Only issue (IMHO) is Google contract with open handset alliance that forbids members of that from creating OS based on incompatible android fork, so your handset suppliers are limited with a breaking fork

    But very easy to be android compatible and still have a company creating its own apps - and having them as an alternative to the Google defaults.

    I can understand the compatibility argument

    1 you know an app downloaded from google play store should run on your phone (important for non free apps).

    2 The google play store content is vetted (FSVO vetted, obviously malware sneaks through) and so provides a potentially safer software obtaining experience than just randomly sideloading stuff from unknown sources.

    On my android, running Motorola branded android, chrome may be the default browser but I use Firefox as better ad blocking, I use an alternative to google maps for "satnav" road navigation functionality etc, use the AOSP gallery as I do not like the googlegallery, use amazon music player in addition to google one for cloud amazon song play etc, etc.

    Plus (despite the warnings above) a few sideloaded non store apps (though I am / work with the authors of them).

    I;m really confused as to why EU bothered (I'm EU based) as a lot more freedom on android than iPhone

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: meh

      "I;m really confused as to why EU bothered (I'm EU based)"

      You answered your own question when you mentioned the Fire phone. Which doesn't run Facebook, Uber etc etc, because they rely on Google middleware.

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: meh

        You answered your own question when you mentioned the Fire phone. Which doesn't run Facebook, Uber etc etc, because they rely on Google middleware.

        A phone manufacturer deciding to install eg CyanogenMod could create shims to provide those apis, or persuade the vendors of the incompatible apps to tweak them (surely much less work than porting them to a totally different OS). In fact, there is a community effort to create an open replacements for google apis, see nogapps (google it :-).

        I have to agree with the grandparent post: the Eu response is overblown. Comparisons to Microsoft and Windows fall down already when you consider that most of Android is readily available in source form for free, and that can be forked just fine. But try suggesting Microsoft that you would like to fork Windows, and see how far they kick you out of their door...

        Another factor is there is much less locking down of customers than in the PC world. People frequently switch from iOS to Android or vice versa (some even switch to winphone, or from it). People do not usually have documents in proprietary formats on their phones, and the cloud systems of the major vendors can be accessed by "alien" phones after installing suitable apps (eg. the other day I installed Onedrive support for iPad). And apps are cheaper than for-pay PC applications.

        1. fuzzie

          Re: meh

          The open source parts of Android, i.e. AOSP, is a very small part of what makes up a modern Android phone. Most of the stuff you associate and expect from a modern phone is now tied into GMS and it's interconnected APIs and services. Someone pointed out that the Lollipop release added 5000 new APIs to GMS. Now also add in the extremely course permissions/capability model, that is enforced at install time, and it's extremely difficult to build an application that uses just a specific subset of APIs and degrade gracefully when some subsystems aren't available.

          1. MacroRodent Silver badge

            Re: meh

            Most of the stuff you associate and expect from a modern phone is now tied into GMS and it's interconnected APIs and services.

            So how does CyanogenMod and similar manage to work?

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: meh

        Are you saying Facebook, Uber, and "etc etc" are somehow required to write their applications so they won't run on anything but Google middleware? I don't say that's not true, but given the size and capability of the two named companies (especially the first), it seems a bit implausible or maybe simply an effect of laziness in view of the fact the apparently discontinued Fire Phone has a market share of approximately zero. Either way it seems a matter to take up with Facebook, Uber, and the like, to whom the apps belong, rather than Google.

  16. TRT Silver badge

    Surely the AFA prevents companies...

    Correct me if I'm wrong here... but doesn't the AFA effectively prevent companies from taking something that someone else has done and using that as a base to fork out their own proprietary version which may or may not work with the Google Play, thus denying Google the revenue stream used to recoup their investment in developing Android in the first place? I can't see much unfairness in the system as it stands. Do mobe makers have to license Android and, if so, does that licensing fee really reflect the development and maintenance costs if one were to lock out any future revenue stream as a result of people using the licensed software?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Surely the AFA prevents companies...

      Sorry, but the very idea of FOSS - GPL especially - is not exactly to be able to fork? Google too is piggybacking on a lot of work made by others using Linux and a lot of open source code and tools. It went so far to copy Java to avoid to get any Java license... why Sun and then Oracle shouldn't recoup their investment in Java as well?

      It's funny that Google supporters like to endow Google with "rights" they routinely deny others. Is Oracle evil? Sure. Google is as well.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Surely the AFA prevents companies...

      Yep. Thanks for the intelligent discussion. If I'm misunderstanding, as I said, please let me know.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: Surely the AFA prevents companies...

        1- Create and sponsor an open source project (e.g. Chromium).

        2- Attract volunteer talent and hundred of thousands of free man/hours.

        3- Fork a commercial version (Chrome)

        4- Attain monopoly of the market

        5- Smother OSS version with technical trickery and abusive contracts with the mobe makers.

        6- Profit!

        7- Profit!

        ...

        n- Profit!

        n+1- End of the World!. ^_^

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Surely the AFA prevents companies...

        Ah, right. So Android contains a lot of derived code then?

        1. sed gawk Bronze badge

          Re: Surely the AFA prevents companies...

          Re: Derived code in android...

          Depends what you call android.

          There is clearly a lot of existing C libraries in Android Sqlite/libPNG etc. Linux is clearly existing code.

          I would describe Android as roughly the BINDER IPC layer + some runtime functionality, that I think is original work from Google.

          But the core api's are within google's control, it's their process that starts the "App" code, rather then some easy to replace /sbin/init shim so one way or another they retain considerable influence

        2. Mephistro Silver badge
          Linux

          Re: Surely the AFA prevents companies...

          "So Android contains a lot of derived code then?"

          See icon.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bonkers

    There's Android and there's iOS devices. Both are doing well.

    So where's the "closing down" of the competition?

    Does having fragmented Android really benefit the consumer?

    1. sed gawk Bronze badge

      Re: Bonkers

      Does having fragmented Android really benefit the consumer?

      Which consumer?

      a) the end user who can take there choice in a wider ecosystem as "the market dictates".

      b) the service providers which purchases services and statistics from google ?

      c) the development shops who might actually like some input into the sort of API calls available, and see a opportunity to have some independant players able to compete on quality?

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Does having fragmented Android really benefit the consumer?

      Sure, why fragment the desktop OS market too? Everything was better when MS ruled, wasn't it?

  18. breakfast

    A pattern emerges

    Strange to see this happen with Google now just like it did with Microsoft twelve years ago. I wonder where most of the people now working at Google were working back then.

  19. Bob Vistakin
    Facepalm

    Ironic

    When microsoft was hit with this but for browsers, it complied by offering users a choice of alternatives at installation time, one being Googles Chrome, which became the market leader. Now it's the same thing but mobile search on Android, so if Google can find any credible search alternatives it might well do the same.

    Googling "torsorophy" might help narrow down the quality of these, and of! course! we! need! to! see! if! the! Daily! Mail! will! follow! through! with! their! threat!

  20. bjr

    The EU ins in Apple's pocket

    Apple makes more than 90% of the profits in mobile phones so why is the EU picking on Google which provides an open source platform and has no restrictions on competitive apps in the Google Play store?. Apple is closed source, won't license their OS to any other manufacturer, and severely restricts competition in their app store, but the EU has shown no interest in them. There are hundreds of Android phone manufacturers, they are all free to fork Android if they want or to use CyanogenMod if they want, they do it in China and in the West Amazon has done it, most don't do it because consumers prefer Google's services. But even with Google's own phones, I have the Nexus 6P, you are free to install competitive services. I prefer Google Maps but I also have Sygic on my phone (which I paid for) and I've installed Here Maps for a while which is free. I don't like Chrome so I've installed Firefox, AdFree Browser and Opera. The Google launcher is primitive so I've install NovaLauncher (I have the Pro version which costs practically nothing, there is also a free version). If you want to replace Google Now with Microsoft's Cortana you can, it's in Google Play. If you want to install a competitive app store you can, I also have Amazon's app store on my 6P because I wanted to install Amazon Video which they don't make available through Google Play (that's Amazon's choice, they avoid sharing revenue with Google by doing it that way, on the iPhone they are forced to share revenue with Apple).

    There is no excuse for the EUs behavior.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The EU ins in Apple's pocket

      "why is the EU picking on Google"

      It was explained in the article. It was explained in replies to other comments asking the same question. You should read them.

  21. PAT MCCLUNG

    Using Android to kill competition

    Well it shouldn't be that difficult to identify th EVIL that you're not supposed to do, should it, Google? I guess Larry and Sergey have gotten too far away from the now heavily institutionalized profit 'ho's they hired to do their somewhat shady bidding. As one google employee said, "Evil is whatever Sergy says it is." But he's too busy playing in th sandbox with Larry to see what is happening among the alphabet profit 'ho's, I guess.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I really don't understand this.

    Judging by the posts on here that means I should be posting a strong opinion but as AC so I don't look like an idiot. Here goes....

    MS fund Cyanogen so we should leave the EU and all buy wileyfox phones running jumla!!!

  23. werdsmith Silver badge

    omertà

    New word in my vocabulary. Thank you.

  24. Andy 40
    FAIL

    "foreclosed the market to competing apps and search engines." ?

    "...foreclosed the market to competing apps and search engines."

    How so exactly? I can download competing search engine apps from the Play store, heck I can install an alternative App Store if I want (e.g. Amazon). Or even just download an app from the web and install it (even on a non-rooted phone).

    This is the main selling point of Android vs Apple for me, no vendor lock in.

    I am stuggling to see how this action is in the interests of the consumer. The platform already allows total freedom of what users run on their own hardware. I wonder why the EU doesn't have a problem with Apples much more blatent vendor lock in? Is it because Apple touts this as a 'security feature'?

    Bizarre...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Are people just not getting it?

    The issue is not oh look Android is locked down.

    The issue is not google search being dominant.

    The issue is not being able to fork android.

    The issue is, if a supplier wants to add Google Play, or YouTube App as examples, they HAVE to have search, hangouts and all the other bundled interdependent crap. Then because you have all the other crap, you are then locked into the eco-system, even if you don't want it.

  26. To Mars in Man Bras!
    Pirate

    Europe is Dead

    The EU has completely missed the boat, when it comes to future technology.

    In whatever area you look, Europe might as well not exist: All the hardware is made in China [most of it for US companies], the 3 main mobile OSes and 2 main desktop OSes are American and, in every single area of eCommerce you can think of, from online shopping, to taxi booking, the market is overwhelmingly dominated by US companies.

    Short of introducing protectionism, or throwing millions at any business with the slightest glimmer of an idea [As the "Unicorn" venture capital culture in the US does], I don't see what Europe can do to catch up. We look doomed to become a backwater, dependent on American software and Chinese hardware for our technological needs.

    It's an absolute disgrace, just how badly Europe has fucked this up, when you think of the wealth of talent and manufacturing history the continent holds.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Europe is Dead

      Sure, ARM, for example, is a well known US/Chinese company... Android is built on Linux kernel, and all we know Linus was a US boy...

  27. raving angry loony

    valid point

    Sounds like the EU has a valid point. Google IS attempting to limit competition. Also trying to censor anyone who wants to limit the ads on "their" platform.

    I'd still rather use Android than iOS, but it's getting to look like Google is making Android less and less about "choice" and more and more about "give us your data so we can sell it to others".

  28. db.

    DOS their ass(es)

    Let them access Google, and Google services, but on ANY result, the user has to push a button on the bottom disclaiming all the BS the provider is accused of, and that they want to see more. Let the public prevail!! Viva la revolution!! (<< a hint of where most of this BS is coming from)

  29. Sirius Lee

    They must know this is brain dead from the start

    "alleges it uses Android to kill competition"

    The market is mobile. The competition is Apple not variants of Android.

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