After a protracted legal battle it could not win, Google has finally decided to comply with the directives issued by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) as it is bringing a slew of changes to its business model in the world’s second-largest internet market. The judgement and the changes being brought as a consequence of the same, are nothing short of landmark in themselves.
These changes come barely ahead of the January 25 deadline which the tech giant had been given to comply with the directives of India’s antitrust watchdog. In a move that is bound to send waves across the industry and change the very way Google operates its Android ecosystem, the California-headquartered Google is revisiting its agreements with phone-makers and partners and bringing changes to its Android and Play Store billing policies.
“We take our commitment to comply with local laws and regulations in India seriously. The Competition Commission of India (CCI)’s recent directives for Android and Play require us to make significant changes for India, and today we’ve informed the CCI of how we will be complying with their directives,” Google India said in a statement.
For one, Google is easing up on the licensing terms of Android – the company’s mobile operating system. Under the changes in its business model, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will be able to license individual Google apps for pre-installation on their devices. This means OEMs will no longer be forced to pre-install the entire suite of Google apps on their phones – something that OEMS would greatly prefer. Furthermore, Google will be updating the Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants.
For another, the changes include giving Android users the ability to customize their devices as per their preferences and choose search engines other than that Google’s own offering. Android users in the country will have the ability to choose their default search engine via a choice screen. This choice screen will appear when a user sets up a new Android smartphone or tablet in India. Another major change that will be implemented by Google is providing users with a choice of billing for all apps and games on the Play Store. Once February rolls out, developers can offer users the option to choose a billing system apart from Google Play’s own billing system when it comes to in-app purchases.
“Android has always supported the installation of apps from a variety of sources, including via sideloading, which involves app downloads directly from a developer’s website. We recently made changes to the Android installation flow and auto-updating capability for sideloaded apps and app stores while ensuring users understand the potential security risks,” the company further commented on the matter. In simpler words, it will now be easier to sideload apps on Android.
It remains to be seen whether this landmark move by Google – spurred by the actions of the CCI – prompts other regulators across the globe to persuade Google to change the way it operates in other countries. The tech titan has already expressed its displeasure after it was slammed with a hefty fine of $161 million last year and directed to make changes to its business model.
Its appeals to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) and the Supreme Court fell on deaf ears as it was directed to pay 10% of the multi-million-dollar fine imposed on it for indulging in anti-competitive practices. Nonetheless, the tech behemoth informed that it will continue to appeal to aspects of the CCI’s decisions, even though its “commitment to Indian users and the country’s digital transformation stands undeterred.”