In an unexpected way (at least for me), Opera, Nokia and Gigaset are “teaming up” with Google, against the European Commission.
This thread is somehow a fork of https://community.e.foundation/t/status-on-new-phone-roadmap/2595/26. I deemed the topic deserved its own thread. Thank you @Rik for your input in that other thread.
Small summary. In July 2018, the European Commission fines Google €4.34 billion for illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices to strengthen dominance of Google’s search engine.
Later, as Rik mentioned:
On 23 September 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union decided which entities can “fight” for the appeal on the side of Google, and which other entities can fight with the European Commission. Link to the European Court of Justice
On the side of Google, among others: Gigaset, Nokia (HMD) and Opera
The following excerpts are of particular intersest to me. Warning: those descriptions of the reality might rely on a bias possibly very different from yours…
Item 21 (items are referenced on the page of the Court of Justice linked above): “Threat” by Google:
On 16 October 2018, Google announced the various measures envisaged to put an end to the practices fined by the Commission pending the judgment of the General Court. In particular, Google stated that, in so far as the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with its other apps helped fund the development and free distribution of Android, a new paid licensing agreement was to be introduced from the end of the month of October 2018 for the distribution of Android devices within the European Economic Area (EEA) and separate licenses were to be offered for Google Search and for Chrome.
Item 101 about Gigaset:
As far as Gigaset, whose smart mobile devices all use the Android mobile operating system, is concerned, it submits that its economic activity is directly affected by the Decision. The fact that Android is high-quality, reliable and free and the possibility to obtain access to a complete suite of apps including Google Play (Play Store), Google Search and Chrome at no cost are crucial to the commercial success of its products. Gigaset also submits that it entered into three types of agreement (MAFA, AFA and RSA) with Google, which include, according to the Commission, the restrictions at issue. In that context, Gigaset notes that the abuses found and the requirement that Google bring those restrictions to an end within 90 days of the notification of the Decision have significant consequences for its activity both in terms of its contractual obligations, in particular those of a financial nature, and in terms of the increased risk of fragmentation of the Android platforms.
Item 102 about Nokia (technically HMD):
Similarly, HMD, more than 60% of whose net sales were accounted for in 2018 by smart mobile devices using Android, submits that its economic activity is directly affected by the Decision. The commercial strategy of that undertaking involves offering a ‘clean’ version of Android on its devices, comprising that operating system and apps offered by Google (Google Mobile Services app suite), without any other software being added initially to that combination. This enables HMD to update its devices continuously and securely. The free and open nature of Android and Android’s platform-wide compatibility are therefore critical for the commercial development of HMD, allowing it to devote its resources to manufacturing premium devices, rather than having to develop and maintain software in parallel. By characterising certain provisions of the agreements entered into by HMD with Google (MADA and AFA) as abusive, the Decision challenges that ‘ecosystem’ which is beneficial to HMD. HMD’s situation will also be affected by the amendments to those agreements within the EEA as a result of the Decision, with those amendments challenging the essential elements of HMD’s commercial strategy. For that undertaking, the slightest increase in the costs of production will have a particularly detrimental impact on its competitiveness in a highly competitive sector. Similarly, the proliferation of ‘forked’ Android versions as a result of the Decision could lead to a greater degree of unnecessary and unfortunate fragmentation with the result that certain apps would no longer be compatible across the entire Android platform. HMD also invokes its active participation in the administrative procedure.
Item 103 about Opera:
As far as Opera is concerned, it submits that the Android operating system is crucial for its economic activity. Opera states, first, that it has developed a web browser to compete with Google Chrome and an app called Opera News, both of which are available on the Android platform. It also notes that, in 2018, 70 to 80% of its mobile users used Android. In that context, Opera submits that the availability of this free and high-quality system enables manufacturers to develop and deploy their devices and developers to offer their apps. The open nature of this system has also allowed Opera to innovate and to offer different versions of its search engine. For Opera, such opportunities could not have existed without Google taking the risk and devoting significant resources to the development of Android and Google Play. Similarly, unlike Apple’s mobile operating system iOS, which only allows apps to be downloaded, Android allows Opera to pre-install them if it can reach an agreement with a device manufacturer. Opera states in that regard that pre-installation alone accounts for 30% of new users. In this context, by harming the essential elements of the Android ‘ecosystem’ and therefore the elements searched for by Opera users, the Decision directly affects the activity of that undertaking. A return to the situation prior to the Decision is necessary for Opera, which could thus continue to benefit from the attractiveness of the Android platform and from the previously proposed business model. For Opera, there is a risk that the increase in costs relating to the implementation of the Decision will drive certain device manufacturers out of the market, in particular those who have, so far, pushed down prices and offered it the best opportunities to pre-install its apps. Opera also invokes its active participation in the administrative procedure.
This is appalling. It radically changes my vision of those 3 companies.