Google to charge phone vendors for its Android apps in Europe

If device makers want to ship Android phones with Google apps --and especially the Play Store app-- in Europe, they'll now have to pay a licensing fee.

After receiving a record-breaking €4.34 billion fine in the EU for violating anti-trust laws, Google has announced today changes to Android's licensing model for the EU zone.

The company plans to charge a fee to all Android phone makers that want to include free versions of its Google apps with the default versions of the Android OS they are shipping in EU states.

This means phone vendors will have to pay Google a fee for installing Chrome, Search, Gmail, Drive, Maps, Translate, YouTube, and above all, its Play Store app.

The last app is the most important, as it allows phone vendors to easily onboard new users. The Play Store app grants access to the official Google Play Store where most of the millions of Android apps are hosted.

For any decent phone vendor, the Play Store app is a must.

Until now, Google has only allowed phone vendors to ship the Play Store app with their phones only if they abide by strict rules. First, device makers had to include bundle of other official Google apps (Search, Chrome, Translate, Maps, etc.), and they had to agree not to ship unapproved forks (modifications) of the Android OS.

In July, the EU ruled that this practice was illegal and fined Google. The Mountain View-based company filed an appeal, but the process is expected to take years to judge.

Today, in a blog post, Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President for Platforms & Ecosystems at Google, said the company is now taking steps to comply with the EU's decision and adjusting its policy by introducing app licensing fees.

On top of the new app fees, Lockheimer said that phone vendors are also free to distribute unofficial forks of the Android OS and that they can also skip installing the Search and Chrome apps, which until now have been deal-breakers.

The new licensing fees will enter into effect in two weeks, on October 29. The licensing fees aren't available for each app alone but for the Google mobile application suite as a whole, which includes all the Google apps, except the Chrome and Search apps, which will be offered under separate licensing fees. This was done so Google can comply with the EU Commission's anti-trust ruling.

Phone vendors will have to comply with Google's old rules if they want to ship Android smartphones and tablets in other parts of the world.

"Android will remain free and open source," Lockheimer said. "As before, competing apps may be pre-installed alongside ours."

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