back to article EU turns screws on Android – report

Barring a last minute deal, the European Commission is set to impose a swingeing fine for Google parent Alphabet’s anti-competitive behaviour in Europe, with specific terms addressing its control over Android in contracts with phone-makers. The details come via Reuters’ Foo Yun Chee, a regular and reliable source on DG-COMP. …

  1. Slx

    It's not quite the MS case.

    There's a huge difference between Android's distribution and Windows in so far as the majority of Android installations are actually skinned versions of the OS that are highly customised by manufacturers and most of them bundle huge amounts of their own apps.

    So, basically all that Google would have to do is not require bundling of the their own apps?

    Most of them are pretty excellent, especially Gmail and Google Apps etc, so I would imagine a lot of people will download them anyway.

    I can see there's an issue for app developers competing against Google, or Apple for that matter on iOS (but it has a far smaller market share in most of Europe - exceptions being Ireland and Britain).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not quite the MS case.

      It's the same.

      You can't have access to X unless you install Y.

      You cannot uninstall Y.

      See, the same.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not quite the MS case.

      also as far as I can tell, Google aren't requiring people who also ship some non-Android phones to pay for Android anyway?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: It's not quite the MS case.

        If they ship licensed Android phones, they can't currently ship the open source version (AOSP) with their own services on top, instead of the Google services, it is either or.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not quite the MS case.

          So they can't ship AOSP phones and Android phones at the same time. So this isn't about the operating system at all then, is it? It's about the bundle of applications and services that Google wrap up for use on top of the operating system. I'm sure Amazon would be happy to sell these manufacturers an alternative software stack to go with their AOSP builds - what's that? No Gmail app? Shame...

          They can also carry on making phones with Windows phone, Symbian, Ubuntu and/or any other mobile OS they can find - no restrictions on that (OK, so they're all a bit crap, but you can't blame google for that).

          This is a country mile away from what the MS case was all about. The manufacturers just want to have their cake and eat it too, so they're trying to throw their weight about with the help of the EU Commission. I'm sceptical that this will do the consumers any good at all - which is what the point of the competition laws is, after all - so what exactly is the point of this?

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: It's not quite the MS case.

            It is about the operating system, or rather the lack of choice, if you want to sell an official Android phone, you can't also sell your own phones, with your own software.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not quite the MS case.

      "declaring that Google had monopolies in three areas: search, licensable smartphone operating systems, and app stores."

      It's interesting that the Commission should choose to identify the market as "licensable smartphone operating systems". Do they really think the average consumer goes out and says "I know, I think I'll buy a nice new licensable operating system smartphone, it'll go really well in my pocket next to my proprietary, non-licensable operating system smartphone". Bollocks do they - they've defined this as a market sector when it really isn't. Is the Commission launching another action in paralell over Apple's monopoly of non-licensable smartphones? Of course not - and as a result this begins to sound like a witch hunt.

      The complaint about App stores is similarly dubious. If you include Apple - particularly if you go by revenue rather than number of users - it really doesn't look like much of a monopoly.

      Search - yeah, they do have a point there. Google need to be kept in check in this area, so calling them to account for their actions is perfectly OK. They just shouldn't conflate it with other complaints relating to obviously fiddled market sectors, or they'll risk having the whole lot thrown out - baby with the bathwater.

  2. Spacedinvader

    "Android phone home-screens must display a Google folder and search bar"

    Mine doesn't...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah, the bits that *nobody sane* actually uses.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

      RE: Mine doesn't

      I'll wager that it did originally, but the UI is customisable enough to allow you to remove bits you don't want. That's what I did with my Samsung.

      Removing some of the other general crapware...that's another issue....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is that "mine doesn't because I've removed them" or "mine didn't right from when I first bought it"?

    4. David Nash

      Google bar on home screen

      Mine did, to my annoyance, until I installed an alternative launcher (Nova).

      It's not configurable in the standard one for Android 6, as I understand it. At least alternatives can be installed.

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: Google bar on home screen

        It's not configurable on Android 6 on my LG G4 only because the old superimposed bar doesn't seem to exist at all. Both available Google search bars (and the LG equivalents) are just widgets, trivially removable.

      2. Planty Bronze badge
        FAIL

        Re: Google bar on home screen

        So essentially this situation is this:

        Microsoft ship Windows with a fixed shell and search (Cortana) that ties you to Microsoft services and search and IE as the default browser, you can't disable either, but you can install another browser.

        Google ship Android with their own shell, their own search, and Chrome, but you can replace all of them, and disable the Google browser and shell totally. You are under no obligation to use any Google services and can decline during setup.

        Someone want to show me what the problem is here?

        1. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: Google bar on home screen

          Someone want to show me what the problem is here?

          The problem is the user can choose, and the manufacturer can't.

          With the license restrictions broken, the manufacturer can choose, and the user ... er .. gets to choose manufacturer?

    5. Alumoi Silver badge

      It doesn't display it NOW, but how about first time you powered up the phone? You know, before rooting it, removing the crap, installing an adblocker and a firewall.

    6. Lord Snooty

      I have a OnePlus 1 which, admittedly, runs a variant of Cyanogen but it is an Android phone and Google's footprint is fairly minimal....

      Hmmm. That said I do use chrome / gmail / G+ / Maps / Play Store / Google Docs and a few more Google apps so who knows...

    7. tiggity Silver badge

      Nor does mine, though it was imported from outside the EU / USA which may be relevant

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We've seen all of this before, really..

    If you've been around for a bit, all of this must appear rather familiar.

    Google follow the Microsoft playbook almost to the letter. That said, I have trouble deciding who to root for in their version of SCO: I'm not really a fan of Oracle either :)

    1. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: We've seen all of this before, really..

      "Google follow the Microsoft playbook almost to the letter."

      That's because it's a universal play book for US businesses. IBM used the same tactics as did HP and the wider business community. Businesses as diverse as consumer electronics, medical diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, vehicle manufacturers and paint suppliers all try to achieve the holy grail of locking customers into a closed ecosystem. It's obviously best if the delivery consists of something that can be considered as "hardware" and something that can be seen as "refills" even if the "refills" are virtual.

      Hence in pharmaceuticals it is seen as better to produce a palliative rather than a cure. Why cure a disease or condition if there is a lifetime of profit to be made selling pills that have to be taken every day?

      Medical diagnostics follows the printer model of sell the machinery cheap or give it away, charge through the nose for refills (the test reagents).

      Consumer electronics are quickly obsoleted and have horrific software licence fees (commercial, and now with on-line licences for home users also) or software that is tied to a release or platform that will need updating.

      This is what they *do* teach you at Harvard Business School.

  4. Your alien overlord - fear me

    And Apple?

    Apple really screws their users over apps and their app store. Why isn't the EU shafting them?

    1. No Quarter

      Re: And Apple?

      Agreed. At least you can download an app from Google without giving them your credit card details.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: And Apple?

        Agreed. At least you can download an app from Google without giving them your credit card details.

        Well I can, from the Mac App Store. IIRC it required a bit of faffing around, later on Apple made it easier to open an Apple ID account without a credit card.

        They have however successfully managed to fool people into believing that browser skins on iOS forced to use Webkit are different browsers.

      2. Tim99 Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: And Apple?

        Er, you can download an app from Apple without giving them your credit card details...

    2. RAMstein

      Re: And Apple?

      Because Apple is not a monopoly due to their marketshare:

      Period Android iOS Windows Phone

      2015Q3 84.3% 13.4% 1.8%

      2015Q4 79.6% 18.6% 1.2%

      2016Q1 83.4% 15.4% 0.8%

      2016Q2 87.6% 11.7% 0.4%

      (from http://www.idc.com/prodserv/smartphone-os-market-share.jsp )

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And Apple?

        > Because Apple is not a monopoly due to their marketshare:

        Neither is Android really. If you don't want an Android phone you don't need to have one. If you walk into any phone shop they'll sell you non Android phones. Apple might be smaller from a marketshare basis, but they make more profit from iPhones than all the Android sellers put together, and of course MS will just about pay you to take a Windows phone away, certainly at one point MS were spending guzzilions of pounds on advertising WinPhones (or LoosePhones it turns out).

        Personally I think this is a trade war by proxy. The US authorities are fining VW for the emissions scandal so the Euro authorities are going to look for similar reparations from any handy US company they can find. As with any wars, this retaliation will be met with more retaliations.

        This isn't like Windows laptops*, because there is a choice, that most people choose not to exercise choice is another mater.

        (*) OK I know that technically there is a choice with laptops, but try walking into any high street store and seeing if you can buy a Linux laptop.

        1. ratfox

          Re: And Apple?

          Neither is Android really. If you don't want an Android phone you don't need to have one. If you walk into any phone shop they'll sell you non Android phones.

          I think the argument is that for phone manufacturers, Android is a monopoly. And if you're not Apple, it's rather correct that Android is the only way you can survive these days.

          Though I'm not sure how it makes sense that 1) Google Search is a monopoly & 2) Google is leveraging their Android monopoly to force phone manufacturers to use Google Search. Surely if 1) is true, then 2) is unnecessary.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ratfox

            Monopoly doesn't mean 100% market share. Google has a dominant position in both mobile OS and mobile search, and are using its mobile OS to further its dominance in mobile search.

            The requirement to bundle Google Search seem less meaningful since many people will download it, but if Samsung made a deal with Microsoft to bundle Bing Search, or some OEM that tries to sell a "more private' Android (whatever that means) might bundle DuckGoGo search.

            Just like there were a lot of people who used whatever browser their PC came with, there will be a lot of people who will use whatever search their Android phone comes with. If the bundling didn't matter, Google wouldn't be doing this...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ratfox

              All this activity is going to do is end with some android phones being locked to other search, maps etc. providers rather than google, with those companies paying the manufacturer for the privilege. I don't really see that this is going to be hugely beneficial for the consumer. Of course the manufacturers could do this now, but only if they forgo the google services - and as the Amazon phone proved, the results aren't likely to sell very well.

              The manufacturers want to keep the google apps, but customise the rest - i.e. sell default search provider to the highest bidder and keep the money for themselves. But then what's in it for google? Their software clearly has value - the lack of alternative AOSP based phone vendors in Europe attests to that.

              If google put a cost on the price of the g-apps bundle without the marketing and customisation restrictions, they might be able to sidestep a lot of this process. e.g. $50 per handset and you can set it up however you like. I doubt the manufacturers would be happy with that price, because they probably think that they can use these proceedings to get the google stuff for free, but it would go some way to silencing the criticism that it's all or nothing if you want the g-apps software.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @ratfox

                Why would consumers be "locked in" to other search or maps? If Samsung sold phones with Bing Maps and DuckGoGo and prevented you from downloading Google Maps and Bing Search, then you'd have a point, but I'm not sure that's even doable on Android.

                The idea is that by other companies getting more use they can improve their products and compete with Google. Otherwise Google becomes the only alternative - and based on your post worrying about being "locked in" to non-Google alternatives, I guess you already believe that. Enjoy your self-enforced monopoly!

        2. cambsukguy

          Re: And Apple?

          > or LoosePhones it turns out

          Perhaps you meant LosePhones?

          Mine is fairly tight so I assume so, then again, I have never lost one either so it is hard to know what you meant.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And Apple?

        Let me add a subheading to your excellent report

        Period Android iOS Windows Phone

        Period Stupid Clever Really Stupid

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And Apple?

        But Apple do have a monopoly in the key market sector of "non-licensable smartphone operating systems". Their abuse of their dominant market position should not be tolerated!

    3. Tessier-Ashpool

      Re: And Apple?

      Because Apple don't license their operating system to other vendors, complete with restrictive practises on how it must be used.

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge

        Re: And Apple?

        Because Apple don't license their operating system to other vendors, complete with restrictive practises on how it must be used
        Oh fer cryin out loud... WRONG TARGET! Repeat after me:

        This is NOT about the ANDROID OS! This is about the PLAY STORE!

        Google make the equivalent of MS Office + Steam. This is what is being fought over. The manufacturers can, and do, use the Android OS any way they like. Look at China.

        The manufacturers can't change the data flow defaults in the suite, they are bound by the Play Store licensing agreement. And you *aren't*. You don't like the defaults? *You* can change it. Now hold onto that thought for a moment..

        If they get to be able to change it. *You* now *won't*. Sorry to burst your bubble, but these guys aren't fighting for your benefit. They want Google to have made *everything* for them, at which point they will steal it/'save you from Google', and then prevent you from leaving *their* embrace/'keep you safe and warm'. At no point do you win. If anything, you lose more.

        They don't want to *stop* Google. They want to *be* Google.

    4. Arctic fox
      Headmaster

      Re: And Apple? "Why isn't the EU shafting them?"

      It is a matter of scale. Whilst I do not disagree with your characterisation of Cupertino's store the sheer all-pervasiveness of the Android OS means that it in effect has a market dominant position as far as its percentage of the total smarphone market is concerned. That, IMO, is why the EU are prioritising going after Google.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And Apple?

      Because they are bit-players now.

    6. LDS Silver badge

      Re: And Apple?

      Because Apple doesn't have a dominant position with 20% of the market. Google with 80% has. It's the same situation why MS was fined years ago for Windows, while Apple wasn't. Is it fair? Until the rules are the actual ones, fair or not, this is what happens.

    7. Rainer

      Re: And Apple?

      Apple also sells the hardware, together with the OS as a single unit.

      They don't license the OS. To anybody.

      Google isn't interested in the hardware. As long as the thing sells ads, they'd be OK with OEMs selling steam-powered mobiles.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And Apple?

        re

        Google isn't interested in the hardware. As long as the thing sells ads, they'd be OK with OEMs selling steam-powered mobiles.

        And sucking every possible piece of information from your traffic to advertise cup you don't want, to load up anal-lytics into some massive data pigsty.

  5. Donk
    FAIL

    Typical EU

    The EU will go after anyone but Apple - and given how Apple force out app developers who develop functionality which provides similar functionality to Apple products, while not allowing hardware competition within the iOS ecosystem, it's clear which one of those 3 is actually the least consumer friendly.

    Most of the time I regret Brexit but at times like this I sometimes wonder if Leavers have a point?

    1. Matt 13

      Re: Typical EU

      I agree... in the old days it was all guns at microsoft for bundling IE with windows, etc....

      Apple Bundled Safari with OSX - noone cared...

      Now Google are bundling their browser with their OS (which the end user can remove and replace) and they are being targeted

      Apple Bundle Safri with iOS (which in my recolection you cant remove) - noone cares

      its one rule for apple and another for everyone else.... Apple arnt the underdogs, they are up at the top table and so should face the same rules as everyone else

      1. prismatics

        Re: Typical EU

        You can remove safari like any other app since iOS 10.

      2. Captain Queeg

        Re: Typical EU

        "its one rule for apple and another for everyone else.... Apple arnt the underdogs, they are up at the top table and so should face the same rules as everyone else"

        But they do, they face exactly the same rules - all businesses do, in all sectors. Without wishing to disrespect you, I'm genuinely not sure if you don't see that or just refuse to?

        Apple face the same rules as Google and so do MS or for that matter BlackBerry. The day one of those three have a dominant position (that's the driver, not profit, not restrictions in use, walled gardens, price gouging, etc.) in mobile, they will be treated as having such, just as Google are now standing accused.

        For Apple that day is a long way off (due to the market share achieved by their high end only business model) and arguably further off for MS and BB, though that's more about their competence or lack of it in competing in any meaningful way.

    2. Planty Bronze badge
      FAIL

      Re: Typical EU

      Indeed, things like this make the EU look like either clueless idiots, or simply corrupt.

      Microsoft and Apple are way more anti-consumer than Google.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: Typical EU

        @Planty

        Microsoft and Apple are way more anti-consumer than Google

        Quite right. Because it's in the consumer's best interests to mine their data for information and then sell it to advertisers. You might not care about this of course, and accept it as a fair price for a cheap device and a free operating system (which will probably never get updated on non-Google hardware), but I'd argue that such practices are not in the consumer's best interests. But then that depends on how 'consumers best interests' is defined - and your definition is unlikely to be the same as mine.

        My definition of 'consumers best interests' demands that my data isn't sold to advertisers, that the app store I use is free from malware, and that I receive OS updates for as long as possible (ideally for four years or more).

        Google does pretty well on the 'free from malware' score, but security on Android still doesn't match up to the level iOS attains - and this is mostly down the fact that only a small percentage of devices are able to update to the very latest software, with its attendant security updates.

        On the other hand though, and whilst I think that the EU is being a little silly on this, the many commenters who write that Microsoft and Apple aren't in the spotlight because they don't have a monopoly have a very good point. There are certain responsibilities that attend the front runners which don't apply to those at the back of the pack. I don't believe, for example, that Robin owners have ever been much troubled by motorway speed limits - but, unlike Android owners, I don't remember the possessors of faster cars complaining that they were being unfairly penalised vs. Robin drivers.

        Shit - that was a bad analogy even by my standards!

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Typical EU

      You mean the same EU that asked 13 billion from Apple because of illegal state subsidies?

      1. Tachikoma

        Re: Typical EU

        You mean the same EU that asked 13 billion from Apple because of illegal state subsidies?

        That's different, you can screw with consumers, but you don't screw with the tax man!

    4. storner
      Facepalm

      Re: Typical EU

      "go after anyone but Apple" sounds a bit hilarious considering this: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/08/30/eu_commission_rules_on_apple_ireland_tax_sweetheart_deal/

      Not an EU or Apple fan myself, but fair is fair...

    5. tony72

      Re: Typical EU

      I'm not sure if it's fair to claim that the EU goes easy on Apple, but what you can say for sure is that this is political bollocks, and not in the least bit acting in the consumer's interests. It's in the consumers interest to be able to pick up and switch between Android handsets from any manufacturer, which actually requires a standard set of apps and user experience. Stop Google from providing that, and what we'll see is a proliferation of carrier bloat, manufacturer lock-in and fragmentation; exactly the opposite of what I'd like to see. Great, thanks EU. As long as Google isn't actually preventing users from installing alternative apps, as far as I'm concerned, the status quo is by far the lesser of two evils.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Typical EU

        "switch between Android handsets from any manufacturer, which actually requires a standard set of apps and user experience."

        So let us uninstall what isn't required.

        Never used 80% of the Google crapware. So why do I have to have it?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beware of ladies knitting elephants in meetings...

    Woah... Xmas coming early this year...

    The new commission makes a welcome difference compared to Barrosso band of merry corporate naso-rectal interfacers (with him being the clear lead in this discipline). The previous commissioner dithered for his entire term dealing with Google. Compared to him the knitting lady assembled a case in only one year and went for the kill.

    Now, if they could also kill the ridiculous "surrender your sovereignity to the corporations treaty"... That would have made for a really nice Xmas.

    I ... like it... Not that it matters as we will be swiftly removing ourselves under their jurisdiction to establish a successful rule of corporations instead.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Beware of ladies knitting elephants in meetings...

      Not quiet up to the standards of "amanfrommars1", but keep trying, you'll get there!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Beware of ladies knitting elephants in meetings...

        Amanfrommars1 can never be equalled. Ever. Don't even try.

        Besides, he did often make sense, provided you spent some time parsing what he/she/it wrote :).

    2. Lord Snooty

      Re: Beware of ladies knitting elephants in meetings...

      upvoted for "naso-rectal interfacers"...

  7. Mage Silver badge

    Google / Alphabet need examined closely

    Not just competition, but privacy, political manipulation/ lobbying, dishonest marketing, fake or Alphabet funded "activists" etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google / Alphabet need examined closely

      You forgot the lizards.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EU Coffer filling

    As per usual, not a single Eurocent of this fine will go to the alleged 'duped' customer. And also per usual, the real problem with android devices, namely that producers stop supporting and upgrading them the minute they're put in the box (yes, Sony and Samsung, I'm looking at you) is deftly ignored.

    If I had a rocket launcher...

    1. John Bailey

      Re: EU Coffer filling

      "As per usual, not a single Eurocent of this fine will go to the alleged 'duped' customer."

      Of course not. And not a Eurocent of Europe wide speeding fines go to the drivers who stay within the speed limit.

      Where do you get the idea that this is how fines work?

      If you want to make an insignificant amount of money from a legal proceeding against a company, be American, and get involved in a class action suit.

      And no. It is not the purpose of the fine to ruin the company being fined, so they will not be fined twice their annual income a week either.

      "And also per usual, the real problem with android devices, namely that producers stop supporting and upgrading them the minute they're put in the box (yes, Sony and Samsung, I'm looking at you) is deftly ignored."

      And which law is being broken?

      Which business regulation is being ignored?

      "If I had a rocket launcher..."

      You would blow your own foot off.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EU Coffer filling

      I don't think you can single the EU out here, as institutions everywhere do this. When councils are fined huge amounts of money for letting down their residents, it gets paid by the council, who collect the money via council tax. From the residents.

    3. cambsukguy

      Re: EU Coffer filling

      > producers stop supporting and upgrading them the minute they're put in the box

      But, if that is the case, consumers can choose to buy from someone else the next time they purchase a device.

      Given the churn on devices, this would soon fix itself.

      Since Samsung (for instance) sell a large number of devices still, I assume either, most purchasers never know or care that their device is not upgraded or, that it is, at least for long enough that the owner is satisfied. My personal view is that they look shabby after a while and that they break a little too easily, as well as android woes in general, but that is just me.

      If I bought a particular make of car and the service or prices for spares etc. was gouging, I would buy another make the next time - which is essentially what I did a long time ago and settled for the make I use now.

      If that make starts turning out unreliable rubbish, I would have to revisit - so far so good.

      1. Gio Ciampa

        Re: EU Coffer filling

        Presumably the average customer cares not one jot as, after 2 years (or whatever the telcos decide is the default minimum these days) they get a new shiny to play with and off they go, with the old phone put in a drawer for all eternity...

      2. David Nash

        Re: EU Coffer filling

        I've owned 5 Android devices and they have all been upgraded several times. I agree upgrading can be a problem but let's not exaggerate, that can be counter-productive.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. jaduncan

    The claim that this is attached to Android itself isn't actually true, the bundling requirements attach to the Play apps. Manufacturers can and do run Android without them - Amazon in particular, but many Chinese manufactures do just fine whilst having Baidu search and apps bundled instead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, but you can't have Play without the other shit you don't want.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Sorry, but the Chinese market is not of EU competence. The problem is the dominant position of Google-controlled Android and apps/services in Europe.

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    "Google controls the bundling and visibility of apps as closely as MS once controlled Windows."

    UEFI Secure Boot can be locked to Windows 10 installs only and, elsewhere in this esteemed organ, this:

    Lenovo denies claims it plotted with Microsoft to block Linux installs

  12. Mage Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Apple

    Android has the vast bulk of market.

    Google licences the playstore accessible version of Android with "Blob" to 3rd party makers.

    Apple doesn't licence iOS to anyone. They make their own massively overpriced phones and tablets that no-one else makes. They are a niche product. It's not a crime to be a luxury priced product.

    Alphabet / Google are quite different in their approach and make money downstream from their advertising dominance, the Android privacy slurp (on Google licensed versions with the not open "blob") search, analytics, location services, Youtube, API hosting etc, and playstore usage is quite different from anything Apple does. Apple are merely a greedy niche supplier, sucking up 4 of every 5 dollars smart phone sales profit and then sitting on it. It's only tax / accounting that Apple needs to be investigated for.

    Alphabet/Google and most other Multinationals need closer scrutiny on tax etc too. But there is a serious issue how the version of Android allowing Google services is supplied and the information on users Google is gathering.

    One solution is to only tax dividends, share speculation profits, etc. Workers and purchasers are taxed already. The current high USA corporate tax rates are damaging.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple

      Pssst...

      Your fanboi is showing.

  13. Lars Silver badge
    Joke

    Oh well

    Started off quite well, but then it went all "orlowski" with "Slovenian search engines and Estonian app stores", perhaps ElReg should introduce a "Joke Alert" icon for articles too. And for those who ask the "why not Apple*" question, as far as I remember there was something about Apple and the EU not long ago. Apple has no near monopoly on anything and they produce and sell their iThings all by themselves.

    * Such an old question, started with the Microsoft vs. EU case long ago and was as dumb then too.

    1. Uffish

      Re: Slovenian

      I would imagine that a lot of people would be very happy to have a Slovenian search engine, it would probable be easier to search for Slovenian things in a Slovenian way (eg maybe Slovenians treat 'š' differently from 's').

      Sure, if you want to find out more about USA cooking, for example, Google works well for pizza recipes - but if you want to find out about non-USA pizza, it doesn't.

      Similarly, if I want to find info on a British topic, googling from France, Google is an annoying waste of time.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    does size matter?

    Company G bundles its own apps with its OS

    Company A bundles its own apps with its OS

    Company G Licences its OS to numerous manufacturers

    Company A Licences its OS to nobody

    Company G allows developers to produce apps that compete with its own

    Company A doesn't allow developers to produce apps that compete with its own

    Company G allows users to install apps from alternative app stores

    Company A doesn't allows users to install apps from alternative app stores

    Company G produces phones with standard ports

    Company A produces phones with proprietary ports

    Because it sells more phones in Europe, Company G is being investigated for anti-competitive behaviour, and Company A is free to do whatever it wants.

    So, if you're dominant you'll get slapped down by regulators. If you're a smaller player, feel free to screw your customers.

    1. Steve Todd Silver badge

      Re: does size matter?

      Yes. Once a company reaches 50% or more of a market they are subjected to different rules to prevent them abusing their dominance. As Android constitutes around 80% of the mobile OS market, and the reason for that dominance is down to the size of the Play store, then restricting access to that store unless you follow a set of rules that Google lay down, including insisting on bundling Google apps, constitutes abuse of power.

    2. David Nash

      Re: does size matter?

      I'm no fan of Apple but I think the users (of which I am not one) are choosing what to buy, rather than being screwed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: does size matter?

        If the reason for the intervention by the EU is to promote open and fair competition, which I assume it is, then all participants in the market should be subject to the same rules. Enforcing one set of a rules on one company whilst allowing others to carry on doing exactly what is being stopped, is not open and fair competition, it is an attempt to skew the market to the benefit of less successful competitors. It is also what Apple doesn't want. The last thing want is to become dominant and attract the competition authorities.

        Of course, forcing Google to allow the manufacturers to dump even more of their crap onto phones is also a VERY BAD IDEA!

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: does size matter?

          They are subject to the same rules. Just the rules say exactly that what is allowed when you're a player with 15% of the market may not be what you could do when you own 80% of the market.

          The aim of most antitrust legislation is not to create an hyper-regulated market - but to avoid the bigger player(s) can crush the smaller ones and hinder new ones to appear and challenge the status quo. Where would Linux and Google be today, if Microsoft successfully ruled web standards, and hindered interoperability with Windows and other applications of its?

          It may sound strange to deem Apple a "small" player, but it's market share, not revenues, the "separator".

          You can become incredibly rich in your small niche, and no one will come after you for antitrust reasons (not paying due taxes is another matter...). You may have less remunerative margins, but try to use your elephant size to crush everybody else, and you may end in trouble.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: does size matter?

        This comes close to saying that a company that becomes successful to the degree that its product exceeds 50% (or some other, possibly larger market penetration) is, for that reason, to be subjected to a different set of rules, better described as constraints, to inhibit their growth. That to prevent them from abusing their dominance.

        Without further qualification, that condenses down to "punish market success." I suspect EU competition law is intended to be a bit more nuanced, perhaps to requiring that the market dominance actually be exploited in a way that constitutes abuse. Has Google actually done that, say by first giving away the Android OS and then, once it has gained dominance, changing the contracts to require the App store and other pieces at issue? Or did they, beginning when they first entered the smart phone OS market, offer a bundle of the OS, App store, etc., preconfigured and immutable by contract, to phone manufacturers and carriers? And on the basis of that did they then become dominant without changing the bundle other than upgrading components? Or was it, as seems likely, somewhere between, with new components added, arguably to foreclose competition.

        In the first two cases, Google probably have done nothing either wrong or illegal; they simply offered a product that helped the manufacturers and carriers succeed in collectively dominating the market for smart phones. They may have been somewhat high-handed, but they did not, after all have to offer the product at all. The third case is more interesting, arguably wrong, quite possibly illegal, and highly beneficial to the attorney class.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: does size matter?

          It's exactly your success that can put you in trouble if your contracts become a noose, exactly because of your dominant position - so you can bend the market to your advantage. Nobody forbids you to hold 80% of the market - just you can't use it to force your other products upon users, disadvantaging others.

          EU has nothing to say if Android is on 80% of mobes, just as it had no objection Windows was on 90% of PCs. The trouble begins if you use this advantage to force your browser, your media player, your search engine, etc. on users - and more so when those products are also gateways to other businesses.

          It's clear, for example, if you control the 10% of the browser market you will never be able to control standards. When you control the 80-90% you can do it easily. "With great power come great responsibilities". It's that simple...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: does size matter?

      Company G bundles its own apps with its OS

      true

      Company A bundles its own apps with its OS

      true

      Company G Licences its OS to numerous manufacturers

      true, and look at the resultant chaos, with no security updates by the 3rd parties.

      Company A Licences its OS to nobody

      sensible

      Company G allows developers to produce apps that compete with its own

      true

      Company A doesn't allow developers to produce apps that compete with its own

      false, I have used alternatives to safari,keynote,numbers,pages

      Company G allows users to install apps from alternative app stores

      true

      Company A doesn't allows users to install apps from alternative app stores

      false, I have installed non App Store products

      Company G produces phones with standard ports

      true

      Company A produces phones with proprietary ports

      false

      You obviously have not researched this properly, go stand in the corner.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The transatlantic tit for tat fines continue:

    VW,Apple, Deutsche Bank and now Google.

    It's like the Ryder Cup but played with real money, place your bets on the next European company to fined by the US.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Lord Snooty

    Well, all of this is very interesting but the key question remains; Are there any European phone manufacturers left for whom Google is anti-competitive and for whom the DG-COMP need to take up cudgels?

    I know Nokia are trying to revive themselves (with Android phones) but is there anyone else? Or is this entire exercise a sop to Finland and an attempt to give Nokia a leg up (so to speak)?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      The issue is not phone manufacturing - after all Google makes none. The issue is services offered through the Android platform. If Google can use Android to ensure its services are used and not others from other companies, it's abusing its dominant position. You found it yourself. If Nokia wants to make (and sell) phones it has little choice but to adopt Android as the operating system, just like PCs back then had very little choice but to come with Windows.

  18. Graham Triggs

    Another EU competition joke

    It might be a bit strong to say I love the EU, but I am a strong supporter of it. I voted remain.

    However, it isn't perfect. No legislative body ever could be. However, the EU competition rulings are so often a joke.

    Phones usually ship with their own launchers, or you can download one, that offers customisation.

    Don't like the Google folder? Remove it. Don't like the Google search bar? Remove it.

    If you want all Microsoft services, buy a Windows Phone. All Apple? Buy an iPhone.

    Too many EU competition decisions are based on some abstract ideo of competition, and not based on a test of what will actually be in the best interest of consumers.

    And that means consumers are often impacted by these decisions, regardless of whether they are in the EU or not.

  19. tiggity Silver badge

    If they want to help consumers

    If they *really* want to help the consumer...

    Make it so that all the unwanted crud that comes on a phone can be removed without needing root (and have rooting a phone not void warranties and be a simple option on any android phone).

    An SD card on a phone without huge internal storage is mandatory as the phone storage is so full of unwanted, unremoveable junk there is little room for apps (& their data) and music / video (prefer media stored local i.e. no streaming to avoid data costs / listen to music when no signal)..

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