While Google failed to get Europe’s General Court to overturn the Commission’s ruling on its Android antitrust case, they did manage to get their fine reduced from €4.3 Billion to €4.125 Billion (~$4.121 Billion USD).
The Commission previously found that Google acted illegally by making it mandatory for Android manufacturers to pre-install its apps and its search engine. By doing so, the Commission said that the company was able to “cement its dominant position in general internet search.” Approximately 80 percent of smart devices in Europe as of July 2018 were running Android OS, and people tend to be content with the default options they’re given.
That is a huge deal according to FairSearch, the group of organizations lobbying against Google’s search dominance and the original complainant in the case, because Google’s search engine is monetized with paid advertising. The tech giant makes most of its money from online ads — based on information from Statista, Google’s ad revenue in 2021 amounted to $209.49 billion. FairSearch also said that by making it mandatory for Android manufacturers to install its apps and search engine, Google is denying competitors the chance to compete fairly.
The issue I find with this is Apple does the same thing with their devices (iPhone/iPad) with ‘bundling;’ iOS apps. I suppose since they only have 20% of the EU’s smart devices the EU doesn’t feel the same way about Apple. But, what about Microsoft? I am not talking about Windows Phones as Microsoft at its peak had around 2% of the global market share. I am talking about PC’s and especially Windows 10/11 PCs which out-of-box came with S Mode enabled. I was not familiar with S mode until I had bought a new Windows 11 laptop last month. While I had purchased a new Windows 10 desktop a couple years ago it did not have S Mode enabled.
Windows 11 in S mode is a version of Windows 11 that’s streamlined for security and performance, while providing a familiar Windows experience. To increase security, it allows only apps from Microsoft Store, and requires Microsoft Edge for safe browsing.
While S Mode can be disabled in Windows 11 it is somewhat a confusing and complicated process. It is much easier for an Android user to install whatever apps or search provider they choose. However, I believe Europe’s General Court ruling is not so much Google “made it mandatory for Android manufacturers to pre-install its apps and its search engine”; after all Microsoft does the same thing with Windows 11 laptops (Office, Edge, Teams, etc.) on any “Windows” machine sold. Google did so with having an 80%+ market share on mobile devices in the EU. But then there is also these damaging findings (even though I am sure Microsoft does the same with Windows PC’s):
In addition to imposing restrictions on Android manufacturers, EU officials also found that Google “made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators” in an alleged effort to ensure that carriers only installed Google Search on the devisions [sic] they sell. The General Court has agreed with the Commission, as well, when it comes to the anti-fragmentation agreements Android manufacturers have to sign. These agreements seek to “prevent the development and market presence of devices running a non-compatible Android fork,” the court wrote in its decision.
Again, I don’t see what Google is doing is any worse than Apple with their iPhone/iPads (though there not 3rd party iPhones) or Microsoft with their Windows PCs (Surface and 3rd party). Nonetheless, these consumers are not being ‘forced’ to use the pre-installed apps, they can still install and use whatever they want. What I do find far worse was HP Inc. and their ‘Dynamic Security’ feature on their Internet connected printers. More so when they enabled this ‘feature’ via a sneaky (automatic) firmware update rendering many users Internet Connected printers inoperable because of the ink being used. Yet the commission felt “infringement of EU competition law could be established was low“. Perhaps this has to do with HP not having the majority of the printer market in the EU. Nonetheless HP Inc. ended up paying a 10 Million EUR sanction to Italian Antitrust Authority and voluntary settlements of $1.5 Millions USD and 1.3 Million USD to US and EU consumers respectfully. All said and done HP Inc. so far has ended up paying around $16 Million USD combined in these three suits/settlements. This is a far less than $4.121 Billion USD Google is being made to pay in the EU for actions in my opinion far less sever than those of HP Inc. with Printergate.