New Android Phones: Less Google-App “Bloatware” Equals Less EU Scrutiny
Google+ and other Google apps no longer required for Google Play access.
Android Central is celebrating an apparent decision by Google to require fewer pre-loaded apps on forthcoming Android handsets. The site sees this as a strike against “bloatware,” the term often used by insiders to describe pre-loaded software.
According to the report, “Google Play Games, Google Play Books, Google+ and Google Newsstand now join the ranks with Google Earth and Google Keep as apps that aren’t a required part of the Google applications package.” Those hardware makers that want Google Play still need to pre-load other apps such as YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps.
In late 2014, The Information reported that the required number of pre-installed apps was being raised to 20 from nine. This move reduces that number, although I don’t know what the formal count is now.
Third-party complaints in the US and Europe have been filed over the question of Google “tying” the pre-installation of its own apps to use of Google Play by Android OEMs, which allegedly discriminates against competing third-party apps. The European Commission is also looking at this question as part of its Android investigation.
Google rebuts such arguments with the proposition that Android is open-source and anyone can do what they like with the code. However, to access Google Play and its universe of apps, OEMs must conform to specific contractual policies, including the pre-installation of designated Google apps.
Many European officials see this pre-loaded app issue as essentially no different from Microsoft’s earlier bundling of Internet Explorer into the core Windows software. That wound up costing Redmond more than $700 million in fines and forced the company to offer “browser choice.”
Therefore, any loosening of Google app pre-installation rules is bound to help the company as it prepares to confront another potentially protracted antitrust battle in Europe over control of Android.