In October, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) fined Alphabet Inc.-owned Google Rs. 1337.76 crore ($161.95 million) for abusing its monopoly over Android and asked Google to remove restrictions on smartphone manufacturers pre-installing apps.
On January 11, after the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) refused to grant a stay, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Google’s request for a hearing on a stay of another Rs 1,337 crore penalty order by CCI on January 16.
Now, prior to the court hearings, Google has come up with a response that lets users and stakeholders understand the full import of what lies at stake. The firm stated that the antitrust ruling issued by the CCI “strikes a blow” to the ecosystem-wide efforts to speed up digital adoption in the country.
Google claims that its open source and free Android is playing a crucial role in making smartphones more affordable and digital transformation of India as more and more users are coming online.
Regarding the app situation, Google says,
For a country like India, where the cost of adoption is the biggest barrier to digitisation, this has had profound implications. More users have incentivised more developers, and each of those developers achieve immediate scale by writing a single app for Android.
Google also responded to CCI statements about the availability of Play Services APIs to OEMs, app developers, and competitors for the creation of forked Android versions. According to Google, the CCI-ordered Android remedies would increase exposure to online harm and privacy risks.
Regarding forked Android versions, Google said,
Devices built on incompatible ‘forks’ would prevent Google from securing those devices, as these versions will not support the security and user safety features that Google provides.
Lack of robust and consistent security upgrades will leave the users of those devices exposed to cybercrime, bugs, and malware – which is most troubling for the millions of new internet users who are especially vulnerable.
Key Points from Google:
- The free Android operating system enables device manufacturers to build a wide range of devices at different price points that gives users unprecedented choice.
- Android leaves OEMs free to pre-install any other app and app stores and they all already do
- Users are free to install apps from sources beyond app stores (‘sideload’) – in such cases, Android displays alerts to ensure users act with awareness for their own safety.
- For developers, beyond providing a vast, vibrant platform to reach users, Android offers tools, predictability, timely security upgrades and multiple monetisation options.
- Consistent with the governments’ concern for matters of public and national safety, Android takes accountability for the apps on the Play Store and ensures that only apps that work in accordance with local laws, get the benefit of the platform.
- Android, today, offers the right balance of a consistent security bedrock through baseline compatibility, while device manufacturers have the choice to create bespoke and highly differentiated user experiences for their brands on top of that.
Finally, Google believes that these directions from CCI could make a foundational disruption to its business model and set them back years and undo the deep investments and effort made by OEMs, developers and the industry overall.
We should get more information regarding the matter after the Supreme Court’s decision in the coming weeks.