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European Commission fines Google €4.34B in Android antitrust case (europa.eu)
921 points by tiger3 69 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 918 comments



>In particular, Google 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").

Sounds a lot how Microsoft abused licensing agreements with OEMs to discourage them from selling PCs not bundled with Windows.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundling_of_Microsoft_Windows


Also Internet Explorer. This case seems almost a mirror of MS except in the phone space instead of PC. Only difference is that when the issue came up in Congress, MS was confrontational with regulators and Google cut some fat checks.


The other main difference it that the EU is punishing Google, while turning a blind eye to Microsoft's behavior. They were only fined for bundling IE and WMP with their OS. Locking customers out of competing operating systems is much more harmful in my opinion. The only EU mention of Windows bundling I can find is an Italian court ordering that customers should be able to get a refund for the Windows tax.


I'd say that, in this day and age, preventing vendors from using Android forks counts as a form of locking customers out of competing operating systems. Even more so now that Android forks represent the only serious alternative available to any phone manufacturer who isn't based in Cupertino.

Also, two wrongs don't make a right. Microsoft getting off way too easy does not mean that Google should get off easy, too.


Android already has a problem with fragmentation, which becomes a problem for customers when their phone becomes vulnerable due to a lack of security patches.

There are lots of cheap Chinese Android phones simply filled with malware from the factory.

If Google allowed phone makers to ship Android forks, this whole problem would become a lot worse. I think this Google policy is actually pro-consumer, and the EU is wrong on this point.


You’re talking of the eternal tension between security and freedom.

No, I don’t think that reducing choice and locking them in Google’s ecosystem is pro-consumer, even if done for the right reasons.

Let’s remember that Android was welcomed by many of us as a free (as in freedom) alternative to iOS.

If you want a locked-down, secure and polished OS, then Apple’s iOS is far better at this game. The only reason why Android is dominating the market right now is because it gave freedom to users and freedom to phone makers. And Google dialing that freedom down after becoming so popular is anti-competitive.

It’s essentially a bait and switch, which is why I believe Google deserves that fine.


> The only reason why Android is dominating the market right now is because it gave freedom to users and freedom to phone makers

I would say that the biggest reason it's dominating is because it's cheap. For most people I've talked to, they don't like Android, but prefer to pay 20% of the cost of an iPhone.


> It’s essentially a bait and switch, which is why I believe Google deserves that fine.

Seems like you're projecting your own expectations onto what Google has really been selling all along. Google doesn't advertise Android as "free as in freedom." OEMs comply with their conditions. It's how it works.


>you're projecting your own expectations onto what Google has really been selling

Andy Rubin in 2010 speaking on how open Android is:

>the definition of open: "mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make"

https://twitter.com/Arubin/status/27808662429


Open doesn't mean the same thing as free.


No, that was Android’s marketing from day 1 and as far as OEMs go, Google’s conditions have evolved, along with what they are shoving down on their users’ throats.

And as far as “free as in freedom” goes, the US law agrees with me via “estoppel”.


Open doesn't mean the same thing as free. Estoppel does not help that "free as in freedom" was never true.


Those Chinese phone manufacturers often use Google Services without a license. So what Google does doesn't change anything for them. Also, Google's agreements do not prevent vendors from installing malware as long it is not competing with Google apps.


Which ones?


Are you actually arguing that giving less freedom to the consumer is for their own good? Am I just missing the sarcasm maybe?


That's pretty much the entire argument behind security, in computers or otherwise. Security features reduce yout ability to do what you want on your device.

(And it's not just an abstract "what if I want to shoot my own foot off" issue. Consider e.g. sandboxing, which by its very nature kills interoperability. In a non-sandboxed environment, you can write code that forces two applications to interoperate, whether their authors like it or not. In a sandboxed environment, you're limited to what vendors allow you.)


Lots of Apple users feel like the app store gives them a pretty strong case this is mostly true.

I kind of agree with them, actually.


For both Apple and Google's phones it wouldn't be hard to allow users to securely add keys of other stores or indivual software makers without requiring one to root his phone (aka destroy the security).

You'd just have to give several huge, clear warnings of what that means before allowing it.

And, by the way, security? Come on, if they really cared about the security/privacy of their users the permissions' systems would not be made of those huge blankets that are more like websites' cookie banners than real useable security controls.


I meant locking out competing OSs is worse than bundling a browser with your OS. Both companies deserve the fine.


The EU also required Microsoft to create the N editions, that came without the media player installed by default. I recall reading that very few copies were sold but I can't find a citation right now.


They were also forced to offer choice with browsers, had a regression and paid a giant fine just a few years back.

Besides the fine maybe Google should also be forcing existing installs to provide a choice?


microsoft not forbids manufacturers to install OS other than windows, that's why you can buy computers with linux. There are always options, there is nothing to blame microsoft for this. If you don't want to buy Windows, you can choose a model without windows. If you cannot find a satisfied model without windows, go to blame your PC manufacturer


Microsoft used to threaten PC manufacturers that bundled any other OS other than Windows or no OS at all. They claimed that not bundling an OS was the express purpose of installing a pirated copy of Windows.


Not in disbelief, but could you link me to a source detailing this bribery?


It wasn't Bribery, it was intense lobbying and campaign contributions. There's a subtle difference between them in America politics.


Let's be honest, they're the same thing, we just aren't able to to anything about it because the beneficiaries are the ones in power.


The laws clearly state it's not bribery. Just how it's not insider trading if Congress Persons act on information they received in the line of work.


Segregation was legal and called "separate but equal." Unjust and incorrect laws have existed.


People tend to assume laws are right, fair, just, and moral. They're not. People also assume right equals fair equals just equals moral. Again, they're not.

There may or may not be overlap on many of these but there's never a 1:1 relationship between any of them.


Also Chrome. Chrome was the biggest shocker to many @ Goog. Even as a Noogler, people often sit down in cafeteria and talked about how Chrome got traction and so popular only because it got a main spot on Google's homepage; something noone, no company or individual advertiser can ever bid for. If that's not Google's "Microsoft Internet Explorer anti-trust" moment, then nothing is.


You're missing the massive point that it was also happened to be far superior to Firefox and IE when it came out... And it held the #1 spot (by far) for nearly a decade while Firefox fumbled around and IE remained IE.

It's crazy to say a product only succeeded because Google pushed it hard. Google (and Microsoft, Yahoo, etc) has a LONG list of failed products they pushed hard (Wave, Google Plus, etc).

Did it play a role? Sure. But prominent advertising is not the same as forcing hardware manufacturers to pre-install software. Nor does it suddenly make customers want a shitty product they wouldn't otherwise use.


Chrome basically got a fresh start and built on top of existing WebKit codebase with new ideas. They did well with the “second mover advantage”

Firefox and IE were riddled with code debt issues so they couldn’t move fast.

Chrome was a great example of software written by a company with resources to dominate a huge market segment relatively quickly. I’m guessing Chrome earned Sundar Picchai a lot of good karma within Google to later become CEO.


Excellent points. Chrome has the best development tools. I used the dev tools so much that I just launch Chrome out of habit when I want to browse the web.


While at the same time they've been stripping out vital features or outright disabling them on mobile. It's almost like gasp they don't care about the users but only their bottom line.


Also, Google paid to have their browser installed through the installers of other companies software, by default.

For instance, by default, the installer for AVG's free antivirus program would install Google Chrome and make it the default browser.


I don't see any problem with doing a few partnerships like these. Even with some major companies. Firefox could easily do the same.

It's only a problem when you squeeze out competition by doing exclusive contracts with all major distributors in a particular distribution channel.


I'd say that sneaking an install of your product onto people's computers when they are not expecting it is exploiting a dark pattern.

However, the point was that Chrome didn't mysteriously gain market share solely based on some sort of technical superiority.

Google paid to gain market share with the sorts of clueless users who click next during install wizards without reading anything.


My point was Google didn't pay anything to gain the market share because they advertise Chrome on their frontpage, something neither Firefox, nor IE, nor Opera nor Safari, nor anyone else in that matter could do.


From an antitrust law point of view, using your monopoly status in one area as a weapon against the competition in other areas is something that likely gets you in trouble.

Although, it helps to remember that in the EU, you don't need nearly as big a market share before their competition law kicks in and places restrictions on your behavior, so things that you can still get away with in the US can be quite illegal in the EU.


They paid to have it bundled as a drive-by install in other popular software, spyware-style.


But only you can leverage your monopoly on search to know exactly which products are worth having those contracts with.


If Mozilla is honest to its premise it can not do such a thing.


Mozilla probably doesn't have so much money to pay for installing their browser.


The GP didn't make the claim that the "product only succeeded because Google pushed it hard". All they said was that Google used their search monopoly to give it a big advantage.

Chrome's quality was a necessary, but probably not sufficient condition for it to gain the market traction that it did.


Exactly, without Search pushing so hard the adoption rate would have been much slower and would have given Mozilla, Apple, and Microsoft time to respond.

Firefox has rapidly improved since it's inception and was rapidly stealing IE market share prior to Chrome.

Had Chrome not been rammed down people's throats then we might have a more even landscape than we do today.


Search. And Gmail. And YouTube. And every other google-controlled site on the internet.

Plus email-SPAM(!!!) about installing Chrome when you signed in to your Google-account on a new computer using a non-Chrome browser.

It also used dubious wording: “You need to upgrade your browser. Click here”

And paying to have it bundled as a drive-by installation with other software.

And Chrome-only websites. And the list just goes on and on.

It was spyware tactics + SPAM all over the place. And the sheer amount of it was mind-blowing.

Even technical people who explicitly didn’t want Chrome had a hard time avoiding it. Imagine the effect on regular, non-technical users.

Saying it was all down to technical merit is just appoligist and delusional.

With Chrome’s dominance and semi-monoculture undeniably in place, Google is now using that position to force new things, like subverting open web-standards with DRM.

I can’t believe people are so non-chalantly allowing this to happen.


Its been a slow boil, and they employ experts to manipulate public opinion (HN fawns all over them still ... articles continually like "Ex-Googlers Do XYZ!". They won't get away with it long term.


Actually, the biggest thing in Chrome's favor was being an installer pack-in. People still get sometimes Chrome installed on them if they go download Adobe Reader without unchecking the box. (McAfee Security Scan Plus is Adobe's other paid pack-in, you might see that instead, depending on your location.) People seem to vastly forget that a large part of Chrome's dominance of the ordinary user is the fact that installing half a dozen plugins or tools on Windows has or still installs Chrome and sets it as your default browser.

When doing PC support for layusers, I've found that: Most people don't know what Chrome is, and don't know the difference between it, Edge, IE, and the malicious Chromium fork they have installed on their PCs. (Side note: May the soulless individuals behind the "WebDiscover Browser" suffer a life of misery and despair as punishment for their crimes.) They end up with Chrome (or a malicious fork thereof) due to a bundle installer.


What Chrome also did far better than everyone else was a user local install, ie an install that didn’t require admin on the PC. Shadow IT installs was a huge advantage over Firefox in Chrome’s first years.


I still have to fight this occasionally. :| In one instance, I ended up just telling the antivirus software at a company to flag Chrome as a virus and block it from executing. Software installation requiring admin rights is by design, and circumventing it is unethical as heck.


If you rely on the lack of admin rights to prevent unauthorised software from being run you’re doing it wrong. You should be using whitelisting (e.g. AppLocker in Windows) which also prevents “portable” applications (without an installer) from being used.


I don't disagree, but a significant majority of IT environments are "done wrong".


The eternal conflict between lowly workers trying to get their job done and the IT department trying to prevent them from doing their jobs to make their own life easier, based on the notion that if users can't use the infrastructure, they can't break it.


Obviously, Chrome is not needed to do their jobs. If it was, it'd be provided. Browsers, especially Chrome, are a massive malware ingress point, it makes zero sense for end users to install them.

IT actually exists to help ensure people can do their job, and do their job faster. As a general goal, I like to learn about people's business processes for the exact purpose of seeing how our IT environment can be improved to expedite their work.

And having five browsers on a PC doesn't make it easier for end users. I have no problem dealing with five browsers, but I get a lot of complaints from people when they open link A in browser B and link C in browser D and don't understand why things don't work.

You may have experienced poor IT departments in the past, or thought you experienced poor IT departments because you didn't understand the other considerations in play, but that's hardly an excuse to assume any given IT choice is some sort of attempt to prevent employees from doing their jobs.


> If it was, it'd be provided.

That's a faulty assumption right there. Usually, people providing workers with their computers and software have limited idea what those workers actually need to work efficiently. This works out fine when workflows are defined so well a trained monkey could do the job, and fails miserably when the worker needs any sort of creative control over their workflow or work output (programmers, designers, all sorts of engineers and technicians, etc.). Most corporate work is probably closer to monkey level than to creative level, but enterprises love to do company-wide policy changes, making all work conform to lowest common denominator.

> You may have experienced poor IT departments in the past, or thought you experienced poor IT departments because you didn't understand the other considerations in play, but that's hardly an excuse to assume any given IT choice is some sort of attempt to prevent employees from doing their jobs.

I've experienced one competent IT department in my life, and their best quality was helping shield our programming team from policies like application whitelisting or limiting admin access, that they were forced to deploy company-wide. For other IT departments I dealt with, most of their actions were explainable if viewed through the lens of caring about the infrastructure to the extreme - that is, "if no one uses it, no one will break it" approach.


> That's a faulty assumption right there. Usually,...

You accuse me of making a "faulty assumption" about my own environment, and then proceed to assume that you can speak for most/all IT environments.

When I state "if you need Chrome, we'll provide Chrome", that's true of my environment. It's also true of my environment, if we don't provide Chrome, and you find a way to install it yourself, you'd be violating policy, and barring the casual mistake of not knowing that, potentially referred to HR. Obviously, in the ideal "don't need to involve HR" case, we just make sure you can't install it.

Now, what isn't just true of my environment, but true of all environments, is that users installing random web browsers is incredibly dangerous, and something every IT department should be preventing if they own the hardware. I don't think that's even a controversial statement, I'm confused why it's being treated like one.


Installation requirements are mostly a hangover from the days when Windows PCs weren’t locked down and anyone could write to the system folders and admin rights were just assumed.

Software developers often didn’t bother testing or ensuring that their software would install (or even run properly) without admin rights.


If you try that on my box, your admin rights will be removed. Preventing me from installing necessary software to do my job is unethical.


Users who have a valid necessity for Chrome can have it, in a very controlled fashion (extensions and cloud features disabled) on request and review.


Im ignoring that request and review process. I don't need a beaucratic process. Im just going to do it.


That's not your box, though. It's your employers.


Not necessarily. Byod is commom. And quite frankly even if it is my employers box im not gonna put up with restrictions against installing a web browser. Or deal with some paperwork request, I'll work around it and just do it.


Who would bring their own equipment to work in software unless they are a founder? That's like paying to work. Especially when employers like to claim ownership rights to all data generated by their employees in the course of business.

Mechanics bring their own tools frequently but their employers don't try to repo their personal vehicles just because the mechanic used the same tools at home and at work


It's fairly common to byod. Just think about personal phones. Do you have corporate phone or do have slack installed on your personal one?


I don't have work slack on my personal phone on principle. If the company wants to require me to be available on their systems they need to provide the hardware


My company hands us out shit laptops running 10 different layers of security devices. Fuck that. I bring my Surface Pro in and actually enjoy my life.


Are you running your personal hardware (without the security) on the internal network? Please tell me you don't have the same level of access with personal hardware as you do with the corporate equipment.

Even in a BYOD environment, an organization should be ensuring any devices granted access to resources are appropriately patched and secured.


I can understand that. I just don't want to have a reason why my employer could call me in off hours, nor for them to claim ownership of stuff I've done.


But then you're the unethical one, here.


Chrome was also offered when downloading Adobe Flash and as I remember it was often bundled with various free software.


I don't see how partnering with a few other software companies to distribute software via installers is a bad thing or a sign of monopolistic practices (aka limiting competition and harming customers by forcing them to use a product they wouldn't otherwise)...

It's a bit shady to make it 'automatically the default browser'. But that is a problem with the OS. An installer shouldn't be able to make that choice for the user.


They fixed this with Windows 10, actually. Which of course, upset people because it defaults people to Edge, and asks people to give Edge a try when they change it.


True, I remember seeing that now on my moms laptop. I remember it was quite aggressive in warning you not to switch away from Edge.

Microsoft can never let the marketing people stop having control and ruining their products. They are trying to make it more useable and user friendlier, but it's funny seeing the push back within the product.


I've recently said that Microsoft is the most self-defeating company in history. They often take all of the goodwill they've earned, and then torch it on minor battles that aren't really making them any money. If someone's gotten into the settings screen to change their default, they probably have tried Edge, or at least know what it is and have some reason for switching.

Windows 10 telemetry is a great example: They shot themselves in the foot PR-wise on an otherwise excellent operating system, chasing a pile of metadata that won't really be significantly more useful than what they get from people who voluntarily agree to be Windows Insiders. There isn't a good business case for preventing people from shutting off error reporting, and it's had a huge impact on mitigating all of their other efforts to repair their image.


I'd say the forced update from 8 to 10, with all the UI dark patterns, was even worse. An OS "collecting telemetry" on you was mostly an abstract problem for non-technical users. An OS trying to annoy and trick you into updating to that scary "telemetry version" - that's another thing, and I know plenty of people who were pissed off about that. Hell, my own mother sticks to 8 and still refuses to entertain the thought of using 10 precisely because of those attempts at forced upgrade.

It's a shame, really, because Windows 10 is a decent OS, and it fixed most of the issues with 8.


That kind of behaviour is easy to understand when one works at any Fortune 500, specially those whose main business isn't software related.

It doesn't matter how much goodwill a specific department might have, power struggle and department differences always end up impacting it.


Google also showed a warning about an unsupported browser when Google Documents were used with other browser like Opera.


Often with a link to download Chrome saying misleading stuff like “Upgrade your browser. Click here”.


> You're missing the massive point that it was also happened to be far superior to Firefox and IE when it came out

I mean, you really could have said the same thing about IE 4 when it came out. It was actually better than Communicator at the time, which was a bloated, unfocused, mess of a browser.

It's hard to find news and reviews from 1997 to back me up, but here are a couple accounts I found recollecting their experiences with the browsers: https://www.quora.com/Why-did-Netscape-lose-ground-to-IE


I was a www user at the time and that’s how I remember it. IE4 was clearly better than netscape’s comparable offering at the time, and IE5 and IE6 entrenched that lead to the point where I had to switch to IE. Much faster and much better standards support (ironically IE6 had by far the best standards support at the time of its release.)


It had a few new concepts, mainly multi-processes, but "far superior when it came out" is a broad exaggeration.

Equally, IE was far superior to Netscape when it came out ;)

This is not to say Chrome is (now) the inferior browser but saying their marketing push has nothing to do with its market share is ignoring reality.


It had little things like multi-process, omnibox, and something like a 10x faster JS engine than the competition, but the real killer feature was the auto-updating.


It did come with advantages, no doubt, but - as so often - its market share is not necessarily because it tried to push the web further, a large share is simply because of Google's aggressive marketing.

To this day Google is pushing their browser if you dare to use their services with Edge.


Why is that a shocker? They own google.com and they want to upsell another product, and aren't forcing it upon users or vendors. This seems like normal/standard business practice. Bundling IE with Windows was not the problem, but forcing PC vendors to only sell with Windows installed, and aggressively forcing IE to be the default browser was.

On the other hand, building "web" apps that only run on chrome, that was a shocker for me.


It’s literally the definition of leveraging a monopoly to enter a market.


> On the other hand, building "web" apps that only run on chrome, that was a shocker for me.

Wow, I wasn't aware of this. Do you recall any examples?


There was a solid half a year where google hangouts does not work on current versions of Firefox. It claims that Firefox support is in development, but the actuality of it is that hangouts was deprecated for hangouts meet, which does support firefox


Inbox, hangouts video calls, google earth, off the top of my head, spent 6months+ being chrome-only. H/o video calls over a year (just a few months ago became firefox compatible).


At least the web version of Google Earth is like that.


Chrome was the choice of many people who really know their tools. It was fast and put the content on front instead of itself.

I don’t think we should dismis doing what customers want and try to find reasons for succes only from marketing.

With Chrome Google kind of repeated what they did with search.


What is a "noogler"?


New Googler.


That is an important point; you might be ten times more talented than Google engineers but you won't get your browser promoted on the on of the most popular internet pages or preinstalled with Android. Google is using its dominance in one area to disrupt competition in other areas. I think that this is something that should not be allowed.


Does it not sound hypocritical to sue a corporation for pre-installing software (Microsoft installing IE on Windows) and also suing another corporation for not allowing software to be pre-installed?

I also wonder how they come up with the multi-billion dollar values? How does that massive amount of money actually help repair whatever "economical damage" that was inflicted by not having some sort of app pre-installed on a device?


The question is whether manufacturers had a choice, and the problem is that they did not because monopoly.

Massive fines discourage monopolistic behavior, if nothing else.


> Massive fines discourage monopolistic behavior, if nothing else.

The problem is businesses may take it as a signal that the EU is against foreign businesses rather than against monopolistic practices, in which case the thing being deterred is doing business in the EU rather than monopolistic practices. To show otherwise they would have to levy equally large fines against local businesses engaged in the same sort of practices, which they haven't and likely won't.

If they really wanted to signal discouragement of monopolistic behavior rather than a cash grab they would be ordering specific conduct rather than excessive fines. For example, if the issue is that they promoted Google Chrome in an unacceptable way, prohibit them from distributing Google Chrome in the EU for five years. And then do the same thing to Microsoft just to be even-handed, because they're still bundling their browser with Windows. And likewise with Apple and Safari.

Let everyone use Firefox for five years and see how much browser bundling happens after that.


Microsoft had to have a browser choice screen the first time you tried to use IE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BrowserChoice.eu


> Microsoft had to have a browser choice screen the first time you tried to use IE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BrowserChoice.eu

And if that actually restores competition then you don't need a five billion dollar fine.


Both punitive and compensatory/reparation measures habevtgeir place.


It's a matter of proportionality. A punishment that is the economic equivalent of the destruction of a small city is proportional to something on the order of mass murder, not the prominence of certain information on a company's web page.


If a company creates damages exceeding billions of dollars, it's quite obvious that they should receive penalty worth billions of dollars.

That's basic proportionality.


> If a company creates damages exceeding billions of dollars, it's quite obvious that they should receive penalty worth billions of dollars.

That is entirely tautological. It omits the reasoning under which that spectacular amount of irreparable damages have actually occurred to consumers.

"They have a lot of money and we would like to have that" is not a valid method of calculating damages.


From the press release:

the fine has been calculated on the basis of the value of Google's revenue from search advertising services on Android devices in the EEA.

In other words, Google had an unfair advantage for search on android devices and leveraged that into revenue. The fine is a percentage of that ill-gotten revenue.

There’s an official guideline for calculating damages when anticompetitive behavior is found: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:52...


> the fine has been calculated on the basis of the value of Google's revenue from search advertising services on Android devices in the EEA.

"They have a lot of money and we would like to have that."

The actual "damages" have nothing to do with their total revenue, only the revenue incident to the behavior in question, which is an independent value and not a percentage of total revenue.

For example, if they improve their search engine which causes more people to use it, it doesn't change the actual amount of damage from separate actions -- it may even reduce it by transitioning some of the defaulted users into users who would make an affirmative choice in their favor -- but it would have increased the amount of the fine when calculated as a percentage of revenue because it would have increased their total revenue.


Well you're making some assumptions about damages and maybe have opinions what constitutes damages. I think the other side you have to consider is if revenue related to wrong doing is in the billions and your fine is in the thousands, it's toothless. Companies will gladly pay a pittance in fines over and over again against billions in revenue. That's not ideal from and enforcement standpoint. It doesn't get companies to follow the law and play by the rules. There's consequences for that too, voters have opinions about their governments letting companies run amok without any real consequences or deterrents.


> I think the other side you have to consider is if revenue related to wrong doing is in the billions and your fine is in the thousands, it's toothless.

If the revenue related to wrong doing is in the billions and the harm is in the thousands, attempting to prohibit the conduct instead of imposing a small tax and using the money to compensate the victims is obviously a large dead-weight economic loss.


It may not be a reasonable way of calculating damages but it is a reasonable way of punishing wrong doing.


You do understand that nobody, including politicians and FF users want to remove Chrome, Edge or Safari?

You do understand that doing that would probably cost those companies (and everyone else) a lot more?

We only want a level playing field. Giving companies a real fine is just a way to make sure the board and the shareholders actually gets the message ;-)


> You do understand that nobody, including politicians and FF users want to remove Chrome, Edge or Safari?

It's punishment. If somebody wants it then somebody has a perverse incentive.

> You do understand that doing that would probably cost those companies (and everyone else) a lot more?

Exactly. You actually punish them, in the way directly contrary the the goal they were trying to achieve with their bad behavior, without suspiciously enriching yourselves in a way that calls your true motives into question.

> We only want a level playing field. Giving companies a real fine is just a way to make sure the board and the shareholders actually gets the message ;-)

But what message are they getting?

It's not as if there is a clear roadmap for how to avoid this sort of thing. Antitrust laws are super vague and prohibit a wide variety of common business practices, to make it effective to use them against powerful nefarious entities with many lawyers. The theory is that the government will only use them against bad actors. But if the government considers you a bad actor just because you're a foreign company, what are you supposed to do then?


> just because you're a foreign company, what are you supposed to do then?

Most foreign companies aren't considered bad actors.

We are talking about 1) the old Microsoft here - definitely a bad actor - getting rid of it seems to have been refreshing even for Microsoft shareholders.

- 2) Google, a company we many of us loved at some point but who might now be in need of some refreshing at least in some areas.


> Most foreign companies aren't considered bad actors.

Google wasn't considered a bad actor until then they were.

> the old Microsoft here - definitely a bad actor - getting rid of it seems to have been refreshing even for Microsoft shareholders.

The old Microsoft deserved everything they got and then some. But even then, it would have been nice for the penalties to be more "actually effective in increasing competition in PC desktop operating systems" and less "suspiciously convenient transfer of large sums of money."


> Google wasn't considered a bad actor until then they were.

The alternative (where they are considered a bad actor before they were) seems a lot worse ;-)

I think EU might even have cut them a good slack here based on their previous status as good guys.

> and less "suspiciously convenient transfer of large sums of money."

In a EU perspective I think we'll find this doesn't matter much to them.


> How does that massive amount of money actually help repair whatever "economical damage" that was inflicted by not having some sort of app pre-installed on a device?

By creating an incentive for Google (and other corporations) not to do it again.


This is a complete non-sequitur.


Manufacturers have been notorious for not security patching their forks. Manufacturers have been notorious for altering OS compat APIs to lie about device capabilities. While I wish Google would have used their leverage for a more nuanced set of requirements, I can understand the motivation here.


I have been wondering when the USA would start fining Google, Facebook and other mega corporations. It seems that will not happen.

I am really glad that EU did this, been waiting years for this to happen. Other fines will surly come. You can’t eat and kill your competition too long before someone starts to sett the records straight.

A happy day for us consumers!


This is a dangerous ruling that pushes the world further into the potential for trade wars by proxy.

Contrary to numerous posts-

-no, the law isn't "clear". This is an incredibly nuanced situation, and the notion that Google was just overtly flouting (ed: thx sjcsjc) the law is outright nonsense. Google has a huge litany of bad practices (I personally recently switched my daily driver to an iPhone for that reason), but simply saying "Surprise....enormous fine" is ridiculous.

-the fine is enormous. Various "well it's only a quarter's earnings across all of Google" are outrageous. Over 6 years Google spent a grand total of $1.1B in all expenses for Waymo, for instance. $5B is an enormous, enormous amount of money for any company.

I highly doubt this will be a "pay it and forget it" fine, but is going to ring across all multinationals as a warning.


Let's read the law: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CEL...

>Article 102

>Any abuse by one or more undertakings of a dominant position within the internal market or in a substantial part of it shall be prohibited as incompatible with the internal market in so far as it may affect trade between Member States.

>Such abuse may, in particular, consist in:

>b) limiting production, markets or technical development to the prejudice of consumers

>d)making the conclusion of contracts subject to acceptance by the other parties of supplementary obligations which, by their nature or according to commercial usage, have no connection with the subject of such contracts

Ok, so, Google said "You can't use Google Play unless you force users to have Google Search installed".

How is that not clearly breaching d?

Then they said "You can't use Google Play if you try to help develop any android forks."

How is that not clearly breaching b?

>but simply saying "Surprise....enormous fine" is ridiculous

They've had at least two years notice, so could have reduced their fine by complying when they were first warned. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-1492_en.htm The article literally warns about the exact things they're still doing.


How is that not clearly breaching d?

They're a part of the same suite of apps that provide the "Android experience" (Google experience, whatever -- the thing that most consumers think of when they consider Android). They manifestly have a profound connection with each other.

And let's be clear here lest there be any confusion -- zero customers want a vendor to do anything different, and the only reason some vendors wanted to is because they could double dip: Pitch the Android experience and get the market inroads, while getting some Bing or whatever payola to "force" that on a consumer.

The same is true of the other claim-

Then they said "You can't use Google Play if you try to help develop any android forks."

Google's argument, whether honest or not, is that if you need a consistent representation of the Android experience that you're selling to consumers. If the GS8 has the full Android experience, but then the GS8P has the Android Fun Store and Bing Search, this can seriously dilute the market opinion of Android and cause consumer confusion.

This is absolutely not at all clear cut. It is incredibly nuanced. And if we just go around clubbing everything coarsely, why does my BMW have a BMW entertainment system? Why couldn't I choose Alpine at the dealer? An entertainment system is not an engine, right? I don't want to go down the road of absurd analogies, but if you're seriously presenting the notion that this is clear cut, you are not really thinking about it much.

As an aside, Google has had the same policies regard their suite of apps since day 1 of Android. Since the very beginning. When iOS absolutely dwarfed it. When Blackberry reigned supreme. When I was hefting around my sad little HTC Dream and listening to the John Gruber's tell us how doomed it was.


>They're a part of the same suite of apps that provide the "Android experience"

The thing they were fined for was

>[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);

How is the Play Store related to the Google Seach app or to Chrome? One is an app store, one is a seach bar and one is a browser. They have nothing in common and don't interact in any meaningful way (except perhaps the interaction between the Google Seach app and Chrome, but that relation isn't part of the ruling).

This is clearly Google using the dominance of the Play store to push other, completely unrelated apps.

>zero customers want a vendor to do anything different

The first thing I do with a new phone is to try to get rid of that google search bar on the home screen (I open a browser to seach the web ...), I don't use mobile chrome, and I prefer rooted CyanogenMod / LineageOS over stock Android. So I am clearly impacted by all three offenses Google was fined for. I suspect I am not the only one.


> How is the Play Store related to the Google Seach app or to Chrome?

- They're not, and the attempt to claim they are part of a mobile "suite" is the same sort of obfuscation Microsoft used when they argued a web browser (IE) was an essential part of a desktop OS. This ruling seems obvious to me.


> same sort of obfuscation Microsoft used when they argued a web browser (IE) was an essential part of a desktop OS

How is a web browser not an essential part of a desktop OS.

Literally every single consumer operating system comes bundled with a web browser, and in fact everyone bundles their own

OSX: Safari

ChromeOS: Chrome

Windows: Edge


"Essential" and "useful" are not the same thing. A web browser isn't an essential part of a desktop OS the same way a network card isn't an essential part of a computer. Even though network cards come with most computers due to frequently being useful, they're not essential to the computer being a computer... computers can very much come without them, which people occasionally also find useful. Also, times have changed, and the web has become a far bigger part of people's life than it used to be.


> A web browser isn't an essential part of a desktop OS

That's so 1997. I would argue that a desktop OS isn't essential to my web browser. All I want my phone or my desktop computer for is to browse the web (not me but that's true for the vast majority of people). All this nonsense that comes with the OS is peripheral. Not essential. The only thing my phone or desktop needs to do is turn on, connect to the web, and download facebook.com and any other website I want. That's it. That's essential. Network card: essential. Web browser: essential. Any so-called computer without a network card is as good as a brick to me.


I believe that this does not really address what "essential" means in this argument, and I find you're both arguing the same point but semantically disagreeing.

The idea of a Web Browser being "essential" to an OS is to mean that the OS itself would not be complete without this specific browser, which is in fact not true. Whatever combination of OS + browser you elect to use, or of you eschew the common OS parts in favor of it being entirely browser based is your choice.

That is the contention when Google, and also when Microsoft, try to claim that their respective browsers are essential to their OSes. (Before anyone tries to call me out, yes, Apple is just as silly with iOS, but at least they attempt to have some very fragile ground to stand on regarding performance)

So the argument isn't that a web browser isn't essential to modern day computing, it's that the OS itself does not need a built in one to be complete, or any specific browser to realize its goal of being an OS.


> How is a web browser not an essential part of a desktop OS.

MS argued that the specific web browser IE was essential and I think that's the type of argument that is problematic, both for MS and Google


I don't know if you remember the 90s, but it actually, literally was with the integration of active desktop and other features that brought html and web scripting (and all their vulnerabilities, but that was a blessed time before XSS had been termed yet alone abused) directly into Windows explorer.

Internet Explorer and the Windows shell were the same code. There's a reason why until this day the Windows shell is `explorer.exe` - it and `iexplore.exe` (IE) were the one and the same. You could open a file explorer to C:\ and then type in `msn.com` in the address bar, and the PC wouldn't blink.


Not just essential -- atomic. Inseparable.


> How is a web browser not an essential part of a desktop OS.

The short answer, at the time anyways, was that you could just delete it to no consequence. It was just another program.

Some of the phones do "need" a browser as they provide it as a feature to apps, so things are a bit murkier now.


That's the moment your OS becomes a "mobile app platform", or a "software distribution". Or just the definition of OS changes. Or maybe not, because Windows was always more than the kernel. And it always included Notepad. But Notepad was never essential. And traditional UNIXes always came with a lot of user space programs. (And thre are essential user space apps for POSIX-y OSes, right? Things like the coreutils programs, ls, stat, cut, test, rm, [, sh, etc.)

And there's the WebView component, that's part of the SDK, that's essential, and it can be a dependency, or it can be bundled into the APK. (There's even https://crosswalk-project.org/ that is basically new WebView for old phones - Chromium built for old phones.)


So good of you to cut right through the nuance.

But of course to an Android buyer, it is all a part of the experience with the device. They know what to expect and what is there.

"he same sort of obfuscation Microsoft used when they argued a web browser"

And Microsoft was right. Windows has Explorer or Edge. It still does. The EU giant fine did absolutely nothing but made them realize that cashing in big on American companies is essentially free. Of course I still download Firefox, just as you can do on Android.


“But of course to an Android buyer, it is all a part of the experience with the device. They know what to expect and what is there.”

The problem is that by not giving the choice makes this anti-competitive behaviour. What’s wrong with giving Samsung the ability to make a deal with Yahoo to install Yahoo as the default in their Android phones?

If they claim it’s all part of their integrated experience, then they should provide the necessary APIs/SDKs for other search providers to integrate properly.

We’ve been over this before, it’s anti-competitive behaviour, and it lacks choice.


> But of course to an Android buyer, it is all a part of the experience with the device.

Only if the device is advertised as being an Android, which is a trademark that you cannot use without Google’s agreement. You can’t use anything Google related actually, besides AOSP, so I don’t see how Google can make that argument with a straight face.

And on Microsoft... they could easily block any competition just like Apple is doing on iOS. That you are able to install Firefox on it, be thankful to previous antitrust fines they got ;-)


> How is the Play Store related to the Google Seach app or to Chrome?

“Related to” does not mean that they are the literally same thing. They are clearly related as a suite of applications which form the core experience of what is called “Android”.

The law doesn’t say that if it is technically possible to unbundle a set of options from a product offering to be sold al la carte that companies must do that.

These are all essential components of one product — a mobile OS. Mixing and matching, for the vast majority of users, is neither practical or expected, and absolutely negatively impacts the brand.


> Mixing and matching, for the vast majority of users, is neither practical or expected, and absolutely negatively impacts the brand.

Microsoft should be delighted then that they can force Internet Explorer on everyone again.

> They are clearly related as a suite of applications which form the core experience of what is called “Android”.

That argument doesn't hold for Chrome. The core experience of Android is the AOSP browser (aka Android Browser). Later Google started to use their monopoly to force the inclusion of Chrome alongside Android Browser, followed by the removal of Android Browser in Android 4.4.

And even now, the only reason Chrome is part of the "core android experience" is because Google pushes hard to make it that way. There are plenty of other good mobile browsers.

>These are all essential components of one product — a mobile OS

But Google doesn't licence the OS. They donated the OS to Open Source, and use their licencing agreement for the App store to control unrelated parts of the OS experience


Microsoft should be delighted then that they can force Internet Explorer on everyone again.

Microsoft does force Internet Explorer cum Edge on everyone. They never stopped. When the EU forced them to offer a trivial "justify a giant fine" selection tool it did essentially nothing in regards to browser share. It keeps getting cited as the precedent, and while it is in the "EU makes some fat bank" way, it did absolutely nothing for consumers. And that's for an OS that was tremendously more entrenched, whereas I recently swapped out my GS8 for an iPhone 8 with nary a hiccup (and as an aside still enjoy all those Google services).

There is so much bullshit happening throughout this discussion.

Elsewhere people are claiming that Chrome became popular because Google pushed it on their homepage, which is just ridiculous, revisionist nonsense. Chrome became popular because it earned word of mouth as a lighter, faster browser. It exploded. The same happened with Firefox. Because the platform was open and allowed you to choose whatever you want to run. Just as I can and do run Firefox on Android.

Further, vendors/carriers only abuse the right to put in alternatives. It is traditionally called crapware.


> …which is just ridiculous, revisionist nonsense.

As is your version of events. As with all extreme points of view, the truth lies somewhere towards the middle.


> They are clearly related as a suite of applications which form the core experience of what is called “Android”.

I'm using Android every day and never once opened Chrome (instead I'm using the Lightning browser) or used the Google app to search (I'm just searching directly in my browser). So IMHO that's definitely NOT the core experience of Android, while the Play Store is.


Neat. So the OS allowed you to choose alternatives and to avoid Chrome wholly. So you're fully of the opinion that the EU argument has no merit then, right?

Of course, saying it's a part of the Android/Google Experience is from the average consumer. You know that you have the Chrome browser if you so choose. Yes, you can go to the Play Store and install Firefox. Unlike on iOS where the browser alternatives are facades.


It's the same argument as with Microsoft vs. the EU regarding IE: Defaults are important when you have a monopoly.


I'm pretty sure that an important part of the Microsoft argument was that you couldn't uninstall ie and it was used by certain system functions even if you set a different default. That's an important distinction.

(Im a Googler, but that's not particularly relevant to this comment)


I can't uninstall Chrome on my LG Android phone either.


No, but you can fully disable it (and that's equivalent to uninstalling, and wasn't possible on windows).


That is certainly not the equivalent as it still occupies storage.

Also, you could actually uninstall IE. That only uninstalled the shell, not the libraries (as there were dependencies) but it was gone in terms of the application.


An "app" on Android is not a traditional executable. It's really a library and a collection of OS hooks that execute code from that library on various events.

The home screen icon is one of those hooks but by far not the only one. If I hide it or never press it, that implies exactly nothing about whether or not code from the app gets executed while I use the phone.


I've never gone into the Bluetooth settings on my phone, that doesnt mean it's abusive that it was already there on my phone when I bought it.


OEMs can change the Bluetooth settings though.


Same. The Android experience is being able to choose your own browser, media player, email app etcetera.

I know ecosystems make corporations a lot of money and some people prefer them. And they can choose an iPhone or Pixel.


> Mixing and matching, for the vast majority of users, is neither practical or expected, and absolutely negatively impacts the brand.

Firefox has over a 100 million downloads according to the Play Store, so that argument at least doesn't work for bundling Chrome.


But that is 100 million out of over 6 billion Android phones shipped [1] which means around 2% of users install Firefox.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/263445/global-smartphone...


Play store shows Chrome installed 1b+ times, with 9M ratings, Firefox has 3M ratings and 100m+ installs. So it can easily mean 950 million installs for Firefox.


> I prefer rooted CyanogenMod / LineageOS over stock Android

Well then, that's your choice, and with that you admit to belong to some 0.0001% of Android users who are willing to open up their phones to all kinds of security exploits, and reduce its value to some laughable percentile, as is known, with CyanogenMod / LineageOS most of the good part go to hell, camera goes to hell, performance goes, ... and you get what? Glowing aura of open source user


>with CyanogenMod / LineageOS most of the good part go to hell, camera goes to hell, performance goes

All that goes to hell because Google prevents almost all first party support for LinageOS (or any other forks), which is why Google gets fined now. In a theoretical world where Google didn't do the things they are fined for, LineageOS might work much better on a wider range of hardware and thus have much more mainstream appeal.


And I get a phone that's six years old and still works as designed, despite bloat pouring in from app vendors. I understand that I should have dumped that as a brick of e-waste to a landfill, seven years ago. Imagine a very uncivil rant starting from here, on where you should stuff your privileged SV advice.


>And if we just go around clubbing everything coarsely, why does my BMW have a BMW entertainment system

Because BMW don't have market dominance in either the car industry or the entertainment system industry. If they used dominance in one to affect the other, they would be in breach of that legislation.

>This is absolutely not at all clear cut. It is incredibly nuanced

So how do you explain Google's non-compliance when explicitly and clearly informed that they were in breach over two years ago?


So it's only against the law once the company becomes big enough?

If, for example, BMW _did_ become an extremely successful car manufacturer to the point where they were capturing >80% of the market, would they suddenly no longer be allowed to bundle their own entertainment system with their cars?


No, they would be able to bundle their own entertainment system with their cars, but they would not be able to force anyone else who wants to use their engines in their cars to bundle the entertainment system as well, as a contractual precondition to be able to use those engines.

Of course the size of the company and the market dominance comes into play here. It's not a monopoly if people can go elsewhere to get their engines, it is if there is only one realistic choice of supplier (Android).


I don't love this ruling (and I probably disagree with it, but I haven't read the whole decision or the laws in question yet, and as an American, am not 100% clear on EU precedent so I'm somewhat withholding judgment), but yes, in most cases, anti-monopoly laws only apply when a company becomes large enough. In the US, it's actually explicit - monopolies can actually only exist if they are using their status to impact pricing/consumer choice, which necessitates size.


Exactly. That is the whole point of anti-monopoly laws.


> So it's only against the law once the company becomes big enough?

Yes, that's exactly what monopoly abuse laws are for.


Yes, this is how the law works. You surprised?


Yes? When you’re in a dominant position in a market you’re subjected to a different set of rules. This is to help keep even a captured market competitive.


> They're a part of the same suite of apps that provide the "Android experience". They manifestly have a profound connection with each other.

Fire OS and my personal phone which is running a Google-free version of LineageOS would like to have a word.

> And if we just go around clubbing everything coarsely, why does my BMW have a BMW entertainment system?

BMW doesn't have a dominant market position it could abuse. Neither does Apple or any other company that Google is commonly compared to in these discussions.

Somehow these false-equivalences seem to be most common among people trying to push the "unfair fine" narrative.

On top of that you claim that because there are other companies/products that are in breach of the law - at least according to your misreading of it - this somehow makes the word of the law less clear cut in this case. Which just doesn't make any sense.

Let me throw your own words back at you: "you are not really thinking about it [your arguments] much."


> Fire OS and my personal phone which is running a Google-free version of LineageOS would like to have a word.

Hilariously, you just made the parent's point for them - you yourself said you aren't running Android but Fire OS or LineageOS. Android, the product, comes with Chrome, Google Search, and the Google Play Store. If you want Android, you have to take all of Android. If you want to run something else, go for it, but then it isn't Android.


This is just factually wrong.

Android is a separate software project that is developed separately from Google Play Services. The Android OS works perfectly without those installed.

There's no "Chrome, Google Search, and the Google Play Store" in the Android repository. Especially since Android is open source, and most of the latter APKs are not.

I suggest to actually have a look at the a android project before making claims like these. This page is a good place to start: https://source.android.com/setup/


Android the project is open source and lacks those apps, but Android the consumer branded product without those apps is not very appealing to customers.


I doubt that. Play store and maps are important. Having a specific browser and search, on top of hangouts, google+, slides, photos... not so important.


Maps are important, but you can use one of the many different map providers.


It is perfectly fine with Firefox, K9 Mail... Or Samsung Browser and Mail apps.

The Play Store is the one and only problem as the replacements are nowhere near close in functionality or popularity.


And yet, Google is preventing vendors from selling phones with FireOS or LineageOS on them. How would those phones "fragment the Android experience" if they don't have anything to do with Android?


"They're a part of the same suite of apps that provide the "Android experience". They manifestly have a profound connection with each other."

Google has worked very hard to integrate their app suite at such a deep level with Android to the point that they can steer what can be done with the OS just by using that one lever.

Anyone paying attention in the past decade will remember plenty of complaints about the GApps infesting Android.

But yes, if just looks at the situation as it is today, they could be excused for thinking that everything is normal.


Can you think of any technical advantages why Google would do this? Any functionality that becomes possible when the full suite of apps and APIs and services are all present together at once on the phone?


I honestly think that it was a reaction to update issues. The more of the OS which is updateable by Google, the easier it is to patch these. Additionally, i remember people saying at the time that it made it much easier to incrementally add features to Android between major releases.

I don't really mind about the Google Play Services thing (as it probably benefited people overall), but the contracts with OEM's were always wack, and I'm pretty happy that the EU has (eventually) fined them for this literally textbook anti-EU competition law behaviour.


> And if we just go around clubbing everything coarsely, why does my BMW have a BMW entertainment system?

BMW is not forcing BMW to install a BMW entertainment system.

BMW can install whatever entertainment system BMW likes.

Google is forcing other phone makers to install certain Google apps. The issue is not with what Google does for their own products, but what they force other phone makers to do. That is the key point—this ruling wouldn't (or shouldn't) apply to Google's own Pixel products.

Now if Bosch was forcing BMW to install Bosch windscreen wipers as a requirement on any car with Bosch collision avoidance systems, there you might have a valid analogy.


They're a part of the same suite of apps that provide the "Android experience" (Google experience, whatever -- the thing that most consumers think of when they consider Android). They manifestly have a profound connection with each other.

Google also claimed that this ruling would hurt open source projects in favor of “proprietary platforms”, but everything that provides the “Android experience” - Google Play Services and the binary drivers - are closed sourced.


Are there car dealers trying to offer a la carte car + entertainment system packages but are being shut down by BMW?


Of course there aren't because BMW absolutely squashed the possibility of that at the outset. But Google, apparently, deserves a $5B fine because they made a mistake of powering AOSP phones, the Amazon products, countless variations in China, set top boxes, etc.

It is incredible seeing Google being seriously attacked on here for have an open source path as well. I feel like this is some sort of alternative universe.


> But Google, apparently, deserves a $5B fine because they made a mistake of powering AOSP phones

This is incredibly (deliberately?) misrepresentative. They are being punished for having a monopoly and (ab)using that. If Apple/iPhone had an 80% market share in EU the commission would be gunning for them instead, e.g. because of their closed ecosystem preventing competition.


Why isn’t the EU gunning for Airbus, Safran and Arianespace? Airbus and Safran had a joint venture to build rockets, then the EU approved the sale of Arianespace to Airbus for a tiny $166 million. Now in space vehicles and launches, Airbus practically owns all of it in Europe. It effectively shuts out competing rocket makers. If you buy an Airbus rocket, you are forced to hire their Arianespace wholy owned subsidiary to launch it.

And this deal was approved by the EU and it specifically grants a monopoly to Airbus for European rocket manufacturing and launch.

The point is that the EU doesn’t care that much about monopolies— they care that much about American tech monopolies. It’s economic populism. I am not saying anything about the merits of the Android case, only pointing out that the EU doesn’t pursue EU companies with as much vigor. €5 billion is a significant payday for the EU — especially when that money comes from an American company.


If Google had gone the open source route out of the goodness of their hearts, you'd have an argument. Google went the open source route to bootstrap on top of a well known operating system (Linux), as well as to accelerate adoption and catch up to Apple as fast as they could. Then once they got market dominance, they abused their position to stifle competition.


Are you suggesting that to interpret the law correctly here, a court has to judge Google's motivation of releasing the Android code as Open Source?

Further, if Apple were to decide, tomorrow, to release iOS as open source, would they also be in violation of the law (possibly depending on their motivation?)


> Are you suggesting that to interpret the law correctly here, a court has to judge Google's motivation of releasing the Android code as Open Source?

The law often hinges on intent along with action, that's hardly novel.


There is nothing that you said that requires Android to be open source.


I think Android's popularity and extremely quick adoption owes itself to the fact that it's open source.


It owes to being free not open source. OEMs really only had three choices. Create their own OS (horrible choice), use Windows Mobile or use Android. The deciding factor was free. Phone manufacturers no more cared about open source than Windows anufacturers.


Are you just ignoring the part where they use linux which has a gplv2 license?


It is incredible seeing Google being seriously attacked on here for have an open source path as well. I feel like this is some sort of alternative universe.

Exactly. The takeaway from this seems to be to not open up your system a little bit, because then you'll need to go all the way. Whereas e.g. Apple, which built a completely closed phone system from the start, doesn't get any trouble (even when it dominated the smartphone market). Really backwards ruling. And I say this as someone who happily switched to an iPhone to escape Google's data collection.


No its not. There are a lot of Americans being obtusely dense on this. There is nothing wrong with open source. There is nothing wrong with opening the source of a product.

"Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine. These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere," Ms Vestager said.


> Google being seriously attacked on here for have an open source path as well

It's not because Google has open sourced Android (which they _had_ to because of the GPL used by Linux). The fine is for protecting their own marker by blocking others from using that open source software.


Minor nit: Google didn't have to Open Source the whole Android because of Linux; Linux is just one of many components, and Linux' license doesn't apply to the rest of the software there.


This is always an interesting problem of definition and separation. If all the things google claims are absolutely essential and inseparable as part of 'Android' the license could well be interpreted as requiring them to open source all of it. If, on the other hand, these are all separate pieces of software and not totally dependent to deliver the end 'experience' then that contradicts some of Google's legal arguments.


Has Google actually claimed the kernel is "essential and inseparable", or did they just do that wrt the closed-source Google apps, though?


I don't consider that part up to Google's discretion. It simply doesn't function without the kernel. The question is whether the Google apps are also essential and inseparable which would tie them to the kernel as part of a derivative work (according to this interpretation which may or may not hold up in court).


It won't function without a kernel, but will it not function without the Linux kernel? Since the Solaris days with lxrun all the way through present time with Windows 10's linux subsystem and SmartOS's lx-branded zones, you could run Linux binaries (and entire distros) on a system without the Linux kernel, with various amounts of support/breakage. Still, no GPL2 kernel needed.

I suspect that when a lawyer uses "essential and inseparable" they do not mean the same thing a technologist would mean. The GPL itself doesn't use that language, and anyway it's trivial to argue that a full OS distro isn't "based on" (the language of the GPL) the kernel itself.


The GPL issue is completely separate. The law regarding GPL and where is applies vs LGPL is well understood.


Not really, no. There's the FSF interpretation on one hand, but on the other there are companies like VMWare which happily put binary blobs into the Linux kernel and don't consider it a "derived work".


There are disagreements, but let's put it this way: If even the FSF would call it okay, then it's almost certainly okay. And the FSF will tell you that the kernel license doesn't infect user space.


What? I can't open a car dealership and sell BMWs and put custom audio equipment into them? (And to take the analogy further, what if I buy BMWs from a different dealership, not from BMW? Because with software that's basically zero-cost.)


Car manufacturers have been doing custom after market upgrades for cars for years - including the audio system.


> why does my BMW have a BMW entertainment system?

Because BMW has not entered an abusive relationship with a dominant player in the car entertainment system market who would only license the popular system to BMW on the condition that 1) BMW won't develop their own version, and 2) will bundle other software packages also developed by the dominant player.


> why does my BMW have a BMW entertainment system?

BMW is the manufacturer, not a licensor, so it's a slightly different scenario, but let's say that dealers are somewhat equivalent to manufacturers. You raise a good question or two:

1. Does BMW forbid dealers from replacing the factory entertainment system with an Alpine system? Or do they just assume nobody will, since it's already bundled in the car?

2. What is BMW's share of the automobile market? (i.e. how close to a monopoly are they?)


BMW is not a monopoly. That's the key to this. Please keep that in mind.


Monopoly is not a state of being it's something you have over a specific market segment. What does Google have a monopoly on?


In the EU, Android has about 75-80% market share if you look at the whole market, or nearly 100% if you look at the lower end of the market where iOS isn't available.


> They're a part of the same suite of apps that provide the "Android experience"

Offering the open source Gallery app is the "Android experience". Offering Google Photos is not the Android experience, but the "Google experience". It's different.

> zero customers want a vendor to do anything different

Citation needed. I mean I don't want the vendors to add bloatware to a smartphone, just like I don't want Google to add bloatware (like the search bar or the News app). But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like actually innovative features. And even if I as a "stock Android" fan, that doesn't mean everyone is.


Thank you for breaking this down.

I can already see headlines bashing the EU though.


To put the $5B fine into perspective:

- Google had an operating income of 32.9 billion in 2017 [0]. $5B fine for anti-trust practices is 15.2% (5 / 32.9) of that. - HSBC had an operating income of 63.8 billion in 2017 [1]. In 2017, HSBC suffered a $1.9B fine for _willfully_ relaxing it's anti-money laundering filters in order to profit from the illegal drug industry, regimes that are embargoed, and entities or individuals who are suspected of financing terrorism [2]. That's a 1.9 / 63.8 = 0.29% fine for helping finance murderers.

That puts the Google fine into perspective, but it probably says more about the HSBC case than it does about Google's.

It should be noted that HSBC broke a deal to avoid prosecution, thanks to then Attorney General Eric Holder who overruled prosecutors' recommendation to pursue criminal charges. As part of the deal, HSBC confessed to above allegations, which was just a theory at the time.

[0] https://www.statista.com/statistics/513129/operating-income-... [1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/258399/total-operating-i... [2] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/netflix-documentary-re-exa...


1.9 / 63.8 != 0.29%


1.9 / 63.8 = 0,02978056426332288401253918495298 ~= 0.2978% ~= 0.3%. I didn't round very well, but I'd say I was close enough.


It's 2.9% ...


That's right. Silly me.


You can compare 63.8 to 100... it's lower... :) So the percent should be AT LEAST 1.9 :)


It's not a ruling. It's an administrative decision. And it's not dangerous. It has nothing to do with trade wars. Even insinuating that this is somehow a corrupt decision that takes aim at American companies is just way off. This decision has been several years in the making, and Google was told to stop their illegal conduct in April 2016.

EU treaty article 102 is about as clear as it gets. Google even had precedence to look at. And finally, they were warned by the EU commission more than 2 years ago but chose not to comply. This is a company with hundreds of lawyers on staff, and with the best law firms on retainer.

The fine is huge, but it's a small fraction of their revenue. This fine is measured based on guidelines that have been the same for more than a decade: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:52...


> is going to ring across all multinationals as a warning

I'm not sure how that's a bad thing.


What Google was doing was extremely similar to what got Microsoft in trouble for bundling Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player back in the day, and there have been rumblings that the EU was looking at them for it for years. I don't know how you could argue this is a surprise.


Grammar point. You "flout" a law. You don't "flaunt" it (unless you think it's really good)


Normally I would say this is being pedantic, but I think the difference in meaning is important enough that this point shouldn't be ignored.


> This is a dangerous ruling that pushes the world further into the potential for trade wars by proxy.

Don't think trade wars applies. The reasons were given and I think they are correct. Personally I'm glad that the EU has the power to (at least a bit) influence such huge corporations.


Is this yet another case of trying to apply an American interpretation to a European law? I thought we all had a similar discussion when GDPR came into effect.


Hopefully it isn't yet another case of smug Europeans preening and going "Oh, you stupid Americans, our regulators are different and would never levy gigantic fines. Instead, they come give you a hug and have a cup of tea and politely ask you to please stop, and they would never ever in a billion years abuse this extremely wide-ranging law for political ends!"


> Instead, they come give you a hug and have a cup of tea and politely ask you to please stop

They did. Google didn't comply.


Every time a US company is fined there are people that claim it is all protectionism and punishment with nothing to back it up (ironic, considering the degree of protectionism the US engages in).

They are just sour that their precious tech companies are being brought to task for behaving like shitty house guests by not following the rules.

These companies might be able to get away with whatever the hell they please back home but get this; the American Way isn't the only way.

It's just a very shitty dismissal of the very real concerns of US tech companies and their disregard for the laws and regulations in the countries in which they operate. Laws and regulations that EU companies have to follow too.

The only real upset here comes from companies like Google, and their rabid supporters at the prospect of them not being able to implement their shitty consumer-hostile, ring-fencing business model in other countries.

Google were given two year's notice before this fine. TWO YEARS.

It's their own damn fault and the fine is punitive, as it should be.


I have no problem with the result, or the punitive nature of it. I do think that basing fine calculations for violations of EU law on global revenue is a problematic precedent (though if it was based on EU revenue it would absolutely have to have a fair amount of latitude in calculation to avoid all the same tax dodges already in use).


I think 4.3 is a reasonable number even for EU revenue.

American multinational tech companies suck a ridiculous amount of money from the rest of the world.

The US would rarely do anything to harm their corporations. The latest govt is literally “A govt for corporations, by corporations”.


Yeah, I have no problem with the specific number. I just think if it should be that high, it should be a higher percentage and based on EU revenue. That would seem much less legally dubious in a world where I would like global trade to continue to function.


I find this nationalist concern for a global corporation amusing. Does Alphabet consider itself American? Its shareholders live all over the world.


Its largest shareholders are all American, they were founded in America, by Americans, headquartered in America, and almost all it's employees live in America and are American.

My guess is that Google considers itself American.


though I'm an American who lives in California, i feel zero loyalty to Google.

and that absence of loyalty is reciprocated. Google isn't doing me any favors.

if Google disappeared tomorrow someone else would step into replace them. and i wouldn't care if they headquartered in Buffalo or Barcelona or Beijing.


I agree. I am sick of the self-righteousness of some Americans. I remember them howling when Valve was fined by the Australian Government for anti-competitive things. They kept stating about how pro-consumer Valve was. But as an Australian valve is not pro-consumer. Valve has an Australian store, with higher prices than the US store and charges us in USD.


> simply saying "Surprise....enormous fine" is ridiculous.

The case started in 2015. So Google had enough time to appeal and provide info to regulators. So, it wasn't a surprise. Yes the law might not be clear but I think the deliberations took time because of the same reason. If laws were clearer Google fines might have happened back in 2015.


the fine is enormous. Various "well it's only a quarter's earnings across all of Google" are outrageous.

Why? It's meant to be a meaningful penalty that shareholders will feel in their pockets. If fines are just a small cost of doing business, all the evidence is that firms shrug and pay them, because the producer surplus they reap is usually much larger than the fine.


> This is a dangerous ruling that pushes the world further into the potential for trade wars by proxy.

I think that this is already a counter-attack of "dieselgate".


Google will start charging phone manufacturers to use Android on their devices. And they'll pass that on to consumers. The EU will get their check.


Then maybe consumers will start buying lower priced phones with a different OS.


The only other OS is iOS.


Android is free; Google Play Services and Google Play are proprietary Google software and they can be replaced, for example, with F-Droid store or Yandex store.


Windows is free, ntoskrnl.exe and Win32 are properietary Microsoft software and they can be replaced, for example, with Linux and Wine.


People use windows for the GUI/experience. If manufacturers started to use nongoogle version of android the GUI/experience would not change much. Also many people buy windows license separate from their device. Google surely does not want situation where people buy google services license... they want mass adoption for data collection.

If google starts to charge for android then i am sure there will be manufactures selling phone without OS. I would be 100% up for it.


People use Windows to run Windows applications. They use Android to run Android applications. Whether they would use it for the GUI and experience or not is secondary, they don't have much of a choice anyway. If an OS cannot run Android applications -- and AOSP cannot do that since many applications rely on the proprietary Play Services -- it is not Android.

That Android would be free if you replaced the non-free parts by free ones is obvious and does not make it actually free.

> Also many people buy windows license separate from their device. Google surely does not want situation where people buy google services license... they want mass adoption for data collection.

> If google starts to charge for android then i am sure there will be manufactures selling phone without OS.

None of this matters for the question at hand which is if Android is free.


This is good point. But there is possibility of not running play services. And i dont only mean lineagelineageos without play services and apps from fdroid. I am sure Amazon or Microsoft would hop in to provide competitive google alternative. I mean amazon already has android store and if microG can do it - they can do it.


People using also Android for GUI/experience. Google controls the Android system. They have a large say how Android Apps should look like and are consisted of.

At 2018, talking about yet another Mobile OS beyond Android/iOS is just pure nonsensical fantasy. The game is over, if Google going to charge Android, the manufacturers will not be happy, but they will pay and pass the cost to consumers.


Small fines don't work. Large fines get attention.


Exactly, they have to be punitive otherwise they are just absorbed as a cost of doing business.


The fine is supposed to be enormous, it’s not just a slap on the wrist.


no, the law isn't "clear"

Well , judges had a look and decided it was


No, this is a decision by political appointees. I assume judges might have a look if Google goes the court.



Considering how much Google profits from selling users private information, this is well deserved karma.


>I personally recently switched my daily driver to an iPhone for that reason

Thats funny you think Apple doesnt have bad practices... They are seemingly the worst when it comes to IP and giving customers and developers what they want.


>"well it's only a quarter's earnings across all of Google"

actually, 2017 google made $110B so its not 1/4 but 1/22 of their profits last year.. enormous? meh.


That's revenue, not profits. That is also not even revenue but annual run rate based on Q4.


That's revenue. Earnings last year were $12.7B.

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