It looks like Google is set to significantly change how it works with Android manufacturers, at least in Europe. To date, Android device makers have been able to load Google’s apps and services onto their Android phones free of charge. Now, however, Google will begin charging those device makers that want to use its apps.
The move comes as a response to a July ruling in which Google was ordered to stop “illegally tying” Google Chrome and some search-related apps to Android. Companies will now be able to license Chrome, the Play Store, and other Google mobile apps rather than having to bundle all of them together. Companies will also be able to license Google apps for forked versions of Android, which may make for more phones with alternative versions of Android.
Traditionally, Google hasn’t charged for the use of these apps because of how much money it makes from search and Chrome. Being required to stop tying them altogether changes how much money Google could potentially make from them. We don’t yet know exactly how much Google will charge for the licensing of its apps.
“Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the [European Economic Area],” Android head Hiroshi Lockheimer said in a blog post.
It’s important to note that Android as a whole will still be free — it’s just that now the apps that we most often associate with Android may not be. Not only that, but those apps may not come pre-installed on every Android device — so if you want them, you may have to download them separately.
Ultimately, Android device manufacturers may still be tied to Google. They will likely still need to license the use of the Google Play Store, where users can download all of the Google apps that otherwise would have come with their phone. Not only that, but it’s possible Google will be able to continue bundling all of its apps together in the future — the company is appealing the European Commission’s decision. Still, in the meantime, it has to comply with the decision, and as such the changes will go into effect starting on October 29.
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