European Antitrust Crackdown On Android Is Likely Not To Impact Google

Even though European Union’s top antitrust regulator, Margrethe Vestager, threatened as early as last month to break up Alphabet Inc’s Google, the attempt of the regulator to reduce some of the grip that Google has on Android-powered smartphones can prove to be more than a challenge for her.
Vestager has bene fighting hard to stop the alleged anti-competitive practices by some of the big American tech companies.
The final ruling on the android issue is not anticipated to be delivered until a few months and it most likely will encompass a multi-billion-dollar fine and could bring to an end to the alleged dominant clauses in licensing agreements in favor of Google hat prevent smartphone vendors from offering and promoting substitutes for some Google apps like Google Search and Maps, media reports said.
However, according to industry executives and analysts, because the incentives to remain linked to Google are high, therefore Google’s market dominance is expected to remain intact even though the ruling is also expected to be more or less in line with the 2016 recommendations.
It was “virtually impossible” that any EU fine would “change anything massively for Google”, said Robert Marcus, a former member of Microsoft’s mobile strategy team and currently the general partner at Quantum Wave Capital.
There are a number of regulators in other countries apart from Europe that are trying to tame the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon over issues such as anti-competitive practices, tax evasion and a careless approach to protection of user data and hate speech and the case can be a lesson for such antitrust bodies.
A company’s conduct can be changed by targeted measures – such as fast removal of hate speech from a social media platform, as has been demonstrated by German regulators. And money for taxes owed can be collected by plugging loopholes and changing laws.
However, compared to the above two, ensuring adequate competition in a market that allows and fosters freedom for products and services, is quite different ball game.
“Once someone is entrenched, you can’t say, ‘stop’ and things get better,” said Mark Patterson, a Fordham University law professor who has researched Google antitrust issues.
There were no comments form the European Commission or Google.
About 90 per4 cent of internet search market in Europe is dominated by google which means that very few realistic alternatives remain for companies making handsets of for consumers seeking to opt out of Google. And even if it was possible to shun applications such as Google Maps, phone makers would find it hard to do so because of the popularity of the apps.
There are scant alternatives to Android. And if the new rules make licensing Android not so attractive, Google can always push the market hard with its own Pixel phones.
In 2013, lobbying group FairSearch had lodged a complaint with the Commission on the Android issue and investigations were initiated in 2015. At that time, the lobby group had companies like Oracle, Nokia and Microsoft as its members.
“Android is utterly dominant,” said technology analyst Geoff Blaber of CCS Insight. “Whatever the ruling, manufacturers are heavily reliant [on it] so nothing is going to change dramatically.”
(Adapted from Reuters.com)

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