Google has officially released its plan to comply with the European Commission’s ruling that Android was not competitive. For those who don’t know, Google has required that OEMs include Google Search, Chrome and a handful of other apps if they want Google Play installed on their devices. Starting on October 29 of this year — that will no longer be the case. Google has just published an overview of its new policy, shedding some light into what things will look like for OEMs and consumers who purchase Android devices going forward.
The first part of the new policy states that smartphone manufacturers will be able to build non-compatible builds of Android while still retaining access to Google apps. This means that we may see in influx in forked versions of Android in the next few years. While many may scoff at the idea of having multiple incompatible versions of Android used on new devices, the new freedom could lead to some great new use cases and innovations on the platform.
First, we’re updating the compatibility agreements with mobile device makers that set out how Android is used to develop smartphones and tablets. Going forward, Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps may also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the European Economic Area (EEA).
The second part of the new policy complies with the EU’s mandate that OEMs should be forced to use all of Google’s apps in services if all the really want is access to Google Play. Google Search and Chrome will no longer be bundled with the main Google Apps package, but they will be offered to OEMs with a paid licensing agreement. While many consider Chrome and Google Search to be the best in their respective categories, the European Commission has sided with Google’s competitors, claiming that the automatic inclusion of these two apps on the Google Apps bundle reduces competition for consumers.
Second, device manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser. Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA. Android will remain free and open source.
Third, we will offer separate licenses to the Google Search app and to Chrome.
Google’s new policies will only apply to Android devices sold within the EU. It’s impossible to know how the user experience will be altered come October 29, but we honestly don’t think it’ll be a noticeable change. The main fear we have is that handset prices could go up if manufacturers decide to pass on the extra cost of including Google apps directly to the consumer. While Google filed an appeal to the European Commission’s ruling just last week, we won’t know the results of the appeal until 2019 at the earliest.
What’s your take on the European Commission’s ruling and Google’s new policies for Android device sold in Europe? Do you think a similar approach for the US and other markets would be beneficial or detrimental to Android going forward?