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EU Could Stop Google From Giving Away Mobile Software

Google may no longer be able to give away smartphone software for free if it is ordered by regulators in the European Union to alter its distribution deals with handset manufacturers and the carriers.

In a blog post Thursday (Nov. 10), Google’s general counsel, Kent Walker, said that, while the EU argues Google shouldn’t give some apps away as part of a suite, none of the handset manufactures have to preload any Google apps on their Android phones. “Android’s competitors, including Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Windows phone, not only do the same, but they allow much less choice in the apps that come with their phones,” Walker argued. “On Android, Google’s apps typically account for less than one-third of the preloaded apps on the device (and only a small fraction of device memory). A consumer can swipe away any of our apps at any time. And, uniquely, hardware makers and carriers can pre-install rival apps right next to ours. In competition-speak, that means there’s no ‘foreclosure.’”

Walker, who said Google filed its formal response to the EU Thursday showing how the Android ecosystem balances the interest of everyone and how it hasn’t hurt competition, argues EU’s case is flawed to begin with. “The commission’s case is based on the idea that Android doesn’t compete with Apple’s iOS. We don’t see it that way,” said Walker in the blog post. “We don’t think Apple does either. Or phone makers. Or developers. Or users. In fact, 89 percent of respondents to the commission’s own market survey confirmed that Android and Apple compete. To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today’s competitive smartphone landscape.”

Walker went on to say that the EU’s approach to open-source platforms could upset the fragile balance between developers and users and send a signal that, unintentionally, it is favoring closed over open platforms. “It would mean less innovation, less choice, less competition and higher prices. That wouldn’t be just a bad outcome for us; It would be a bad outcome for developers, for phone makers and carriers and, most critically, for consumers,” wrote Walker.

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