Google slams Aussie threat to 'directly intervene' on Android defaults

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Google slams Aussie threat to 'directly intervene' on Android defaults

To offer search engine and browser choice.

Google has criticised what it perceives as a threat by Australian authorities to “directly intervene in the Android operating system” to display a pop-up to users offering a choice of search engine and browser.

Australian managing director Melanie Silva said in a blog post that two of the 23 recommendations in the recent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) digital platforms inquiry were “of particular concern” to Google.

“Specifically, [these are] changes to Android defaults and aspects of the proposed publisher code,” she said.

“The recommendation to directly intervene in the Android operating system does not take into account Australian market conditions and competition laws, and provides no justification for focusing on Android when Apple’s iOS is the most-used mobile operating system in Australia (as noted in the final report) and Microsoft’s Windows remains the most-used PC-based operating system.”

The ACCC, in its final report, made a distinction between Android and other operating systems.

“Google is the global owner of Android, a licensable mobile operating system used as the base software by many mobile manufacturers, such as Samsung, LG, HTC and Sony,” the commission said. [pdf]

“As a licensable operating system, Android is different from an operating system like Apple iOS that is exclusively used by Apple and not available to third parties.”

The ACCC’s final report, released in late July, recommended that Australia follow the European Commission’s lead in forcing Google to give Android device users a choice of default mobile browser and search engine.

“Google should provide Australian users of Android devices with the same options being rolled out to existing Android users in Europe; that is, the ability to choose their default search engine and default internet browser from a number of options,” the ACCC recommended.

“If Google does not introduce similar options for Australian Android users by six months from the date of the report, the ACCC will submit to the Government that it should consider compelling Google to offer this choice.”

The ACCC said that Google is “effectively the default search engine on over 95 percent of Australian mobile devices”.

“Google Chrome is pre-installed on nearly all Android devices and Google Search is the default option on Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari mobile browsers,” the ACCC said.

“Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems are present on over 40 and 55 percent of mobile devices in Australia respectively.”

More or less backing the earlier position of Europe, the ACCC said that “customer inertia in switching between search engines is likely to be reinforced where Google services are pre-installed on mobile devices.”

“Where Google’s services are frequently set as the default, this is likely to make it more difficult for alternative mobile browsers and search engines to challenge Google’s market position,” the ACCC said.

Silva also argued that a proposal in the final report “for regulator-sanctioned negotiation of revenue sharing between platforms and news publishers” as part of an industry code “overlooks existing commercial arrangements between Google and Australian news publishers and the broader value that Google provides through referred web traffic and technology.”

She said Google would join further consultation on the ACCC’s recommendations “in the coming weeks.”

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