Google suggests it may have to start charging device makers to use Android

Google says the EU decision threatens Android’s business model.
Google says the EU decision threatens Android’s business model.
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
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Following an antitrust decision out of Europe, Google implied it may have to start charging device makers like Samsung and HTC to use its Android operating system.

CEO Sundar Pichai suggested in a blog post today (July 18) that the Alphabet subsidiary may no longer be able to give away the mobile platform free of charge, as it has done since 2007, because of the antitrust decision by the European Union. Pichai said the decision, which Google is appealing, “rejects [Android’s] business model.”

“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,” said Pichai. “But we are concerned that today’s decision will upset the careful balance that we have struck with Android, and that it sends a troubling signal in favor of proprietary systems over open platforms.”

The European Commission, the region’s antitrust authority, fined Google a record $5 billion today, in part because it said forcing phone makers that license the Android operating system to pre-install Google apps and services on devices harmed competition. Users tend to stick with pre-installed search and browser apps, the commission found.

Google offers and updates Android—one of the world’s most popular mobile platforms—to phone makers and operators for free, with certain conditions, including prompting manufacturers to pre-install a bundle of Google apps including Search, browser Chrome, the Play store, Maps, and Gmail. Google covers the cost of building and running the platform, which Pichai said totals “billions of dollars over the last decade,” with the revenues made from people using some of those services.

The vast majority of Alphabet’s revenue comes from advertising, such as paid placement of search results on Google and ads that the company places on the internet.

Pichai’s response may aim to rally support from device makers and others following the ruling.