Google announced on Wednesday that it will allow device manufacturers in India to license its individual apps for pre-installation and give users the option to choose their default search engine. This move comes after India’s Supreme Court upheld stringent antitrust directives from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) which ruled that Google had abused its market position in the country. The CCI ordered Google to remove restrictions on device makers, including those related to pre-installation of apps and ensuring exclusivity of its search.
The Android operating system, owned by Google, is used by 97% of the 600 million smartphones in India, according to estimates by Counterpoint Research. This decision by the CCI and the Indian Supreme Court will have a significant impact on the Android ecosystem in India. Google had been concerned about the decision, as it is seen as more sweeping than those imposed in the European Commission’s 2018 ruling against Android.
Google said in a blog post that the implementation of these changes across the ecosystem will be a complex process and will require significant work on its end and, in many cases, significant efforts from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers. Google had hoped to block the implementation of the CCI directives, approaching the Supreme Court and warning that growth of its Android ecosystem will stall. It said it would be forced to alter arrangements with more than 1,100 device manufacturers and thousands of app developers if the directives were implemented.
However, the Supreme Court did not agree to block the directives as Google had sought. The court also said a lower tribunal – where Google first challenged the Android directives – can continue to hear the company’s appeal and must rule by March 31. Google said it continues to respectfully appeal certain aspects of the CCI’s decisions.
In addition to these changes, Google is also updating the Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible variants of Android. This move comes after Google was fined in Europe for putting in place what the Commission called unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device makers. Google is still challenging the record $4.3 billion fine
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