Google has announced that it will start asking European Android users which browser and search engine they would prefer to use on their devices, following regulatory action against the company for the way it bundles software in its mobile operating system. Last year Google was fined a record $5 billion by EU regulators for violating antitrust laws and was ordered to stop “illegally tying” Chrome and its search app to Android.
Google’s initial response was to start charging manufacturers licensing fees for the Play Store and other apps while offering the option to include Chrome and the Google search app in the overall package for free. Now, SVP of global affairs Kent Walker says in a blog post, Google will go one step further by offering users of “existing and new Android devices in Europe” a direct choice of services.
“On Android phones, you’ve always been able to install any search engine or browser you want, irrespective of what came pre-installed on the phone when you bought it,” Walker says. “In fact, a typical Android phone user will usually install around 50 additional apps on their phone … Now we’ll also do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones.”
Google hasn’t said when this will happen beyond “over the next few months,” nor has it said which competing products will be highlighted. The move will draw inevitable comparison to Microsoft’s “browser ballot” web page that it showed to Internet Explorer users in 2010 to comply with a similar European Commission ruling. Microsoft retired the page in 2014 after its obligation expired.