Google's Record Fine Means More Choice For You

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Those of us with a few grey hairs will remember the "browser war" of the early 2000s. Back then, Netscape Navigator ruled the roost until Microsoft decided that Internet Explorer was the way to go and bundled it on every PC. Microsoft used its market power, Netscape disappeared and then Microsoft ended up losing an antitrust lawsuit.

Yesterday, history repeated itself with Google being fined €4.34 billion (AUD$6.9B) for abusing its position in the smartphone market to increase the dominance of its search engine. And while that sucks for Google, it's good news for us.

The announcement by the EU of the results of it investigation into Google says:

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").

Google has 90 days to comply with the ruling or it risks further fines of up to 5% of the average daily global turnover of Alphabet, its parent company.

The EU commission noted that this wasn't Google's first anti-trust problem with the company paying €2.42B in 2017 for abusing its dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to Google's own comparison shopping service.

Given Apple's hold over iOS, I expect it's looking at this ruling carefully and considering whether it will need to relinquish its hold over iPhone and iPad users with Safari. Although you can install alternate browsers on iOS, it's not possible to make an alternative browser, or any non-Apple app, the default for a specific action.

Unless Google appeals this ruling, we should expect a patch to the Marshmallow, Nougat and Pie to remedy this. And Android Q will likely get a few tweaks to integrate the results of this ruling.

Antitrust cases are important for consumers as they help protect us from large companies that stymie innovation and make it hard for us to make choices about what software we'd prefer to use. I prefer to use Google Maps and like both Chrome and Edge more on my iOS devices but I can't set those as my preferred applications.

Hopefully, this decision will help change the behaviour of other software makers.


Comments

    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").

    Wait a sec, I don't really understand this one. What exactly is the problem with what Google was doing here? Are they not within their rights to prevent devices running unauthorised modified versions of Android being sold?

    I prefer to use Google Maps and like both Chrome and Edge more on my iOS devices but I can't set those as my preferred applications.

    I dunno where the author is, but in Brisbane at least, apple's default maps app is lightyears ahead of google maps, which hasn't been able to detect new roads as quickly, and has this bizarre habit of trying to send you up dirt roads and right-hand turns crossing busy traffic JUST to avoid traffic lights, even when those lights are generous for the direction you're going. At least with traffic lights you actually get a guaranteed window to go through, unlike spending twenty minutes trying to turn right onto Leopard St at 8am. Idiotic algorithm.

      When I'm at n intersection ND need to go straight, Apple Maps has often directed me to turn left, go up the roAd, make a U turn and then turn left. nd it has directed me long far longer routes more than once when a direct route is available.

        So I guess Google maps can't figure out Brisbane (just try to go to the Lutwyche bus station - you'll get caught in an infinitely re-calculating loop and never arrive at your destination), and Apple maps can't figure out wherever you are?

      Apple Maps has my street and house, which has been there for about 4 years now. Google added the rest of my street last year but still not my house or most of the ones around it... and also randomly removes my local hospital. It’s a real pain in the arse for websites that rely on Google Maps to look up data or set an address.

      Apple Maps are good at navigation, they just lack POIs. And street view is great, can’t see Apple matching that.

    The Apple keyboard seems to have also given you the bum-steer with your typing.

    Google wont care, and wont change. This amount of money is loose change for them.

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