The European Union hit Alphabet's Google with a record antitrust fine of $5.06 billion on Monday, a decision that could loosen the company's grip on its biggest growth engine: mobile phones. From a report:The European Commission ordered Google to end the illegal conduct within 90 days or face additional penalties of up to 5 percent of parent Alphabet's average daily worldwide turnover. The EU enforcer also dismissed Google's arguments citing Apple as a competitor to Android devices, saying the iPhone maker does not sufficiently constrain Google because of its higher prices and switching costs for users. The European Commission finding is the most consequential decision made in its eight-year antitrust battle with Google. The fine significantly outstrips the $2.8B charge Brussels imposed on the company last year for favoring its own site in comparison shopping searches. The decision takes aim at a core part of Google's business strategy over the past decade, outlawing restrictions on its Android operating system that allegedly entrenched Google's dominance in online search at a time when consumers were moving from desktop to mobile devices. Android is the operating system used in more than 80 per cent of the world's smartphones and is vital to the group's future revenues as more users rely on mobile gadgets for search services. Google has denied wrongdoing. The European Commission took issues with the following practices: In particular, Google: 1. has required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome), as a condition for licensing Google's app store (the Play Store); 2. made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices; and 3. has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google (so-called "Android forks"). Update: Google has announced that it would be appealing against the record fine. In a statement, the company said, "Android has created more choice for everyone, not less. A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition. We will appeal the Commission's decision." Update 2: In a blog post, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, said, the European Commission's decision ignores and misses several facts. He wrote: Today, the European Commission issued a competition decision against Android, and its business model. The decision ignores the fact that Android phones compete with iOS phones, something that 89 percent of respondents to the Commission's own market survey confirmed. It also misses just how much choice Android provides to thousands of phone makers and mobile network operators who build and sell Android devices; to millions of app developers around the world who have built their businesses with Android; and billions of consumers who can now afford and use cutting-edge Android smartphones. Today, because of Android, there are more than 24,000 devices, at every price point, from more than 1,300 different brands, including Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Polish, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish phone makers. [...] The free distribution of the Android platform, and of Google's suite of applications, is not only efficient for phone makers and operators -- it's of huge benefit for developers and consumers. If phone makers and mobile network operators couldn't include our apps on their wide range of devices, it would upset the balance of the Android ecosystem. So far, the Android business model has meant that we haven't had to charge phone makers for our technology, or depend on a tightly controlled distribution model. [...] Rapid innovation, wide choice, and falling prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition and Android has enabled all of them. Today's decision rejects the business model that supports Android, which has created more choice for everyone, not less. We intend to appeal. Update 3: The French government said on Wednesday that it welcomes the record fine imposed on Google by European Union regulators, with a government spokesman describing it as an "excellent decision."
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