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Google will stop bundling its apps on Android phones in response to EU fine

Jillian D'Onfro
  • Google has responded to the European Union's $5 billion antitrust ruling by changing the way that it bundles its apps on Android and allowing phone makers to sell "forked" versions of its free mobile operating system in the EU.
  • The company will now charge a licensing fee to device manufacturers that want to pre-install its suite of apps like Docs, YouTube, and Gmail.
  • It will offer separate licenses for Search and Chrome.

In response to the European Union's $5 billion antitrust ruling in July , Google GOOGL will change how it bundles its apps on Android phones and charge a licensing fee for phone makers that want to pre-install apps like Gmail, Maps, and YouTube in the EU.

Google will also end restrictions on phone makers selling modified or "forked" versions of the mobile operating system.

Previously, Google tied together a suite of 11 different apps that phone makers would have to pre-install if they wanted to license its app store, Play. In July, the EU ruled that this bundling was anti-competitive — pushing consumers towards Google's search engine and weakening rival app makers — though it only specifically called for Google to separate Chrome and Search from Play.

In response, Google said in a blog post on Tuesday that it will start offering separate licenses for Search and Chrome, as well as a license for its suite of apps like Maps, Gmail, and Docs. That means that if phone makers want to pre-install those apps separate from Chrome and Search, they will have to pay a fee, though the amount was not specified. Google says that the new licensing fee will offset revenue lost through compliance efforts that is uses to fund the development of Android, which it offers as a free, open source platform.

Although Google doesn't make money from Android directly, it generates advertising revenue through search as well as Chrome, Maps and Gmail, serving ads within those apps and using data it collects from users to better target ads across its platforms.

"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 [European Economic Area]," wrote Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's vice president of platforms.

Google's previous agreements with phone makers also prevented them from selling modified versions of Android if they wanted to use its suite of apps, but the company will now allow manufacturers to build forked smartphones and tablets for the EEA.

Overall, Google's Android powers more than 80 percent of the world's smartphones. These changes, which will come into effect on Oct. 29, will only affect phones for the EEA, a group of 28 EU countries.

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