Google has officially announced the changes it will make in response to the record £3.78 billion fine levied by the European Commission earlier this year, including a plan to charge companies in Europe a fee to bundle selected services on Android smartphones and tablets.
The European Commission handed down a £3.78 billion fine to advertising giant Google back in July, claiming that the company had 'used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine [...] denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits [and] denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere'.
While Google at the time claimed that the ruling was unfair, the company was forced to work out a means of complying in order to avoid further financial penalties. That compliance has now been outlined in a blog post by senior vice president for platforms and ecosystem Hiroshi Lockheimer - and the news isn't good for manufacturers building smartphones and tablets on a tight budget.
'First, we’re updating the compatibility agreements with mobile device makers that set out how Android is used to develop smartphones and tablets. Going forward, Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps may also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the European Economic Area (EEA),' Lockheimer explains, adhering to the main meat of the EC ruling. 'Second, device manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser. 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. Android will remain free and open source. Third, we will offer separate licences to the Google Search app and to Chrome.'
Cheap handsets sold into the EEA, in other words, will now be forced to either cough up a licensing fee to include Google's own-brand software suite on top of the Android operating system or to use alternative software. The one mitigation: 'We'll also offer new commercial agreements to partners for the non-exclusive pre-installation and placement of Google Search and Chrome,' Lockheimer adds, meaning it may be possible to offset the licensing cost by promising to pre-install Chrome and Google Search. 'As before, competing apps may be pre-installed alongside ours.'
The new licensing terms come into force on October 29th, Google has confirmed, giving European Android device makers little time to arrange new licenses for upcoming devices.