Google’s Response to the EU is Brilliant (Premium)

Using past Microsoft, Intel, and Apple antitrust cases as its guide, Google has offered a uniquely Googley response to EU regulators. Yes, it will comply with the recent ruling that it has abused its monopoly power with Android, harming competitors and consumers. But it will also continue with its appeal, and will only change its licensing policies in Europe.

This is, in a word, brilliant.

"We believe that Android has created more choice, not less," Google's Hiroshi Lockheimer reiterates in a public statement about its official response to the European Commission. "At the same time, we've been working on how to comply with the decision."

That first bit---that Android somehow enables more choice---has been the heart of Google's rebuttal to the EU for years. But as I noted back in 2016, that's nonsense because it ignores the unfair advantage Google gets by forcing partners to install Google apps and services on Android and then make them the defaults. If you want to use Android, there's no choice in this matter, not really.

At that time, I expressed my belief that Google would lose this case. Which they have, pending appeal.

But a year later, I was interested to see how Google responded to the EU's other complaints about the firm's business practices. (And there are several such complaints.) So when Google elected to support news publishers rather than stomp all over their content as they would absolutely have done were it not for EU scrutiny, I saw a company that was learning from Microsoft's belligerent earlier responses to its own EU antitrust charges.

Which brings us to Android.

In July, the EU charged Google with violating its antitrust laws and it fined the search giant $5 billion and demanded that it comply with a set of changes to its business practices in this market.

More specifically, the EU demanded that Google no longer require hardware makers and large network carriers to pre-install Google Search and Chrome. And it was forbidden from preventing Android licensees from also selling even a single mobile device running on alternative Android versions (or “forks”) that were not approved by Google.

Google said it would appeal. But in thinking about the EU charges---which are real and, I feel, clear-cut---I opined back in July that Google would not make the mistakes that Microsoft did in dragging its corporate feet and would instead settle this case quickly.

A few months later, Google asked for more time to file its response. And I had started to think that the EU might actually cause real change in the Android ecosystem.

"Put simply, Amazon’s crappy tablets and Samsung’s overly-complicated devices are a direct result of Google abusing its market power and requiring its own partners to work against the best interests of their customers and their own businesses," I wrote at the time. "But if Google makes the concessions that the EU is demanding, these problems both disappear. And I think it�...

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