Google hits back over Russian ruling on pre-installed Android apps

Google defended its business practices following a ruling by Russian regulators regarding the pre-installation of its own apps in the Android operating system, telling FierceWireless:Europe that it offers device makers and consumers a free choice.

The U.S. software giant was responding to the ruling by Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) that the company is abusing a dominant position in the smartphone market by requiring device makers to pre-install Google applications and services on Android smartphones.

An FAS statement issued on Monday revealed that the authority has given Google until mid-November to amend its contracts, CNET reported. The company faces hefty fines of up to 15 per cent of the revenues gained from pre-installed apps in 2014 if it fails to comply with the deadline, the news agency added.

However, in a brief statement emailed to FW:E, a Google spokesperson denied forcing device makers or consumers to use its applications.

"Device makers are free to use Android with or without Google applications and consumers have complete freedom to use rival applications," the spokesperson said.

Russia's FAS investigated Google following a complaint from local rival Yandex, CNBC reported. The probe centred on whether Google requires a set number of applications to be installed by device makers in order for them to offer full access to the Google Play applications store, the news outlet explained.

Google in August dropped the number of apps that device makers must pre-install from 15 to 11, the Wall Street Journal reported.

While the Journal noted that the four dropped apps were not among the best sellers on Google Play, the move also appeared to be an attempt to appease European Commission (EC) regulators, who in April opened a similar probe into whether Google's installation policy constituted a breach of a dominant position.

Google responded to the EC probe in a blog post, noting that Android can be used by anyone free of charge on devices including tablet PCs, watches and cars.

The company also explained that competing applications including "Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft Office and Expedia are easily available to Android users," and in many cases "come pre-loaded onto Android devices."

For more:
- see this CNET report
- read this CNBC article
- view the Wall Street Journal's August report
- see this Google blog

Related articles:
Microsoft unveils Lumia 950 and 950 XL phones, but puts focus on larger Windows 10 ecosystem
Apple Music is a long-term play, says SVP Eddy Cue
Analyst: Nexus smartphones reveal direction of Google's Android development
BlackBerry CEO confirms Android smartphone and fiscal Q2 GAAP profit
Google cuts Android app pre-installation requirements