Google Frees Up Android Device Makers to Comply with EU Rulings

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Device makers will also now be able to install rival modified, or "forked", versions of Android, the most widely used mobile operating system.

Months after being hit with a record-setting $5 billion fine from the EU, Google is making major changes to its policies in Europe.

Google's Android operating system controls more than 80 per cent of the world's mobile market share.

The company is taking the measures to comply with the July ruling by European Union authorities that found Google allegedly abused the dominance of Android to stifle competitors.

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The way OEMs ship Android on devices in Europe will be quite different going forward, as Google explains in a new blog post. The last time we saw an MADA document (back in 2014), it had an "anti-fragmentation" clause, which said that any company signing the agreement has to be all-in on Google's Android. Both have said they were prevented from signing distribution deals with smartphone vendors in recent years because of Google's restrictions. This summer, the European Commission ruled that strategy to be anti-competitive. If a company in the EEA wants to make Android devices with Google apps, sans Search and Chrome, it will now have to pay for the privilege. That led to the decision to offer them all for free, including the Play Store itself, but following the EC's ruling Google has now had to offer the apps and services as paid-for options instead.

Google has in the past required phone manufacturers to include all the company's apps on Android devices, in order for them to include Play Store. In exchange, the hardware companies no longer have to install Google search and the Google Chrome browser, though they can do so for free if they want to.

The new scheme will come into force on October 29, and will only apply to new smartphones and tablets in the European Economic Area. Device-makers are yet to comment on the changes, though the fear will undoubtedly be that licensing fees - the costs of which have not been disclosed at this stage - will be passed through to buyers themselves.

Desktop progressive web apps can be "installed" on the user's device much like native apps. While Android OS will remain open-source and free, the actual Google apps that make it tick will have to be purchased.