Google imposes Android app fees after huge Euro antitrust ruling

Android Pie statue

The latest Chrome upgrade comes with the rare collaborative support between Google's browser and Microsoft's Windows 10 that allows the browser to install PWA's as regular applications on Windows 10.

Google will have to allow smartphone manufacturers to ship Android devices in the EU without Google Chrome preinstalled, as a result of the massive Euro 4.34 billion fine imposed on the company by European Commission antitrust regulators in July this year. 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's solution to the European Union order puts more distance between its mobile app store, through which millions of Android users may discover and install new apps, and the many sister apps that help sustain Google's deep relationships with customers. Forked devices with the Play Store may be more interesting though.

The EU's main problem with Google isn't about Android specifically, but with the company's dominance of search traffic. Chrome and Google search will not be compulsory even if manufacturers want to continue offering the Google Play Store, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Play Music, and other apps. Failure to end the illegal business practices can result in additional fines.

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Under the new European rules, detailed by Google's senior vice president of platforms Hiroshi Lockheimer, Android phone makers that want to sell devices with Google services pre-installed in Europe will need to pay a licensing fee to Google.

But if Google had failed to ensure compliance with the Commission decision, it would be liable to fines of up to 5 percent of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google's parent company.

Its new measures will see Android manufacturers build "forked" versions of their devices for European markets while still being able to use Google's applications. The blog post did not specify which Google software it would sell when the licensing program takes effect on October 29. 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. Usually, Google insists on bundling its Search, Chrome, Play and other apps all together with Android, though it doesn't charge for them because, well, they make more than enough cash on their own.

The European Commission said it is up to Google to decide how to comply with the July ruling and that the regulator will closely monitor the changes. But the full-featured version of the Android OS has required device makers to pre-install a package of Google's apps like Search and Chrome.