Google Search has been a key component of Android since the OS was first released, and Chrome has become increasingly important in recent years. All three products are now intertwined, but the European Union wants them to be separate. Google recently was hit with a $5 billion fine from the EU, and to avoid more fines while the company challenges the EU in court, it is now complying with new regulatory rules.
The European Commission found Google guilty of preventing Android manufacturers from selling devices with unapproved Android forks (like Meizu’s Flyme OS and Amazon’s Fire OS), paying manufacturers to pre-install Search exclusively, and requiring them to include Google Search and Chrome on their devices. In response, Google CEO Sundar Pichai argued that users could easily install alternatives to Google’s apps if they wanted.
Google is now making several changes to how Android licensing works in the EU, to comply with the latest ruling. First, the company will allow manufacturers to build smartphones and tablets running a forked version of Android, while also selling normal devices with the Play Store. For example, Amazon could build a phone running stock Android with the Play Store, while also still selling tablets running Fire OS.
Google is also splitting up the licenses for Android, the Google Search app, and Chrome. This means OEMs in the EU can now sell Android phones without Search or Chrome. Also, the ‘base package’ of the Play Store and Google’s other apps (Gmail, Duo, etc) will now require a licensing fee.
The new licensing options will go into effect on October 29, for all new phones and tablets launched in the European Economic Area.
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