Google drops restrictions on Android handset makers

Image credit: Google

Google is to remove restrictions it had previously imposed on device-makers looking to use its Android operating system after it received a heavy fine from the EU for anti-competitive practices.

Earlier this year, the European Commission (EC) ruled that the company had been using Android as leverage to "cement its dominant position" in the search market. As a result, it fined the company €4.3 billion (£3.27 billion), the largest such penalty ever recorded.

Google is appealing the decision, but in the meantime, it has also informed the EC of a series of changes it will make to comply with the ruling.

In a blog post, Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice-president of Platforms & Ecosystem at Google, said the company is updating the compatibility agreements it makes with device manufacturers that detail how Android is used to develop smartphones and tablets.

This will mean that going forward, Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps will also be able to create non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the European Economic Area (EEA). 

Additionally, handset makers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser. Previously, the firm had insisted that if manufacturers wanted to pre-install apps such as YouTube and Google Maps, they also had to pre-load its web browser Chrome and Search apps,which the EC ruled to be anti-competitive.

However, Google has said while it would stop this bundling, it will introduce a new licensing charge for devices aimed at the European market.

"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," Mr Lockheimer said.

However, the company did not give any indication of how much the new fees would be, or whether it expects these charges to be passed on to consumers.

The new licensing options will come into effect from October 29th for Android-powered smartphones and tablets sold in the EEA. Mr Lockheimer said: "We'll be working closely with our Android partners in the coming weeks and months to transition to the new agreements. And of course, we remain deeply committed to continued innovation for the Android ecosystem."