Android May Not Remain Free After EU Fines Google $5 Billion For Antitrust Violations

It has not been a good day for Google after it was hit with a record-breaking fine totaling $5 billion or €4.3 billion by the European Commission in relation to Android and the way the company uses its position to bundle search and Chrome with handsets throughout the continent.

Google has been pushing its web browser and Google search while also preventing hardware makers from releasing handsets that run a forked version of Android, all things that the European Commission has given Google 90 days to cease.

The outcome of the ruling, along with the need to hand over a fair chunk of cash, means that Google will have to stop forcing phone makers to install Chrome and Google Search in order to be allowed to also offer the Google Play Store on their handsets. Google will also need to stop preventing handset makers from using forked versions of Android. Google has already stopped paying OEMs and carriers in order to have Google search be the exclusive search offering on devices after the EU started to dig into the issue back in 2014, so that’s one thing off of Google’s plate already.

While Google has said that it will appeal the decision saying that “Android has created more choice for everyone, not less. A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation, and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition,” CEO Sundar Pichai has also suggested that the ruling will mean that Android will no longer be offered for free. “So far, the Android business model has meant that we haven’t had to charge phone makers for our technology, or depend on a tightly controlled distribution model,” says Pichai. “But we are concerned that today’s decision will upset the careful balance that we have struck with Android, and that it sends a troubling signal in favor of proprietary systems over open platforms.”

There is little doubt that Pichai is trying to warn customers, OEMs, and lawmakers alike that Android’s inability to be used as a vector for getting Google apps and services into the hands of users could mean that it will need to make money in other ways – namely, charging for Android installations.

This could be mere posturing from Google, and we’ll have to wait and see what becomes of the appeal before we know whether this threat has any teeth or not.

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