What's going on?
Bad Google. On Wednesday, the European Union (EU) hit the company with a record $5 billion fine for unfair behavior with its Android smartphone operating system.
What does this mean?
80% of the world’s smartphones run on Android, which puts Google in a powerful place. The EU says that it’s been abusing that position by unfairly pushing its own apps onto users and blocking the competition. Google allegedly paid smartphone manufacturers to install its software on their phones before selling them (so the phones would come with Google apps by default) and made this pre-installation a requirement for phones to have access to Google Play – the official app store for Android users. The EU’s given Google 90 days to stop these practices, but Google plans to appeal.
Why should I care?
For you, personally: Everybody wants a piece of your palm.
Most people only use nine apps each day (tweet this), so those homescreen spots are highly coveted (like a Nintendo 64 at Christmas). If you’re a smartphone manufacturer (like Samsung, for example) you want to be able to sell phones with your apps on them – not Google’s. By making this nigh impossible, Google’s getting a headstart on everybody else – think about how many people used Internet Explorer (RIP) just because it came with Microsoft Windows (which the EU fined it for, too).
The bigger picture: Europe’s layin’ down the law.
The EU’s getting tough on tech: Google was also fined last year ($2.8 billion – the previous record) along with Apple, Amazon and Facebook. The EU’s new law on data protection (remember that deluge of privacy emails a few months ago?) carries some serious fines for companies who don’t comply: up to 4% of worldwide revenue.