In a persistent yet fruitless effort (until now) to create trouble for giant American technology companies, the European Union has decided to take action against the Google search engine that belongs to Alphabet Inc. It was claimed by European antitrust regulators last week that Google had taken advantage of its dominant position because the search engine comes preinstalled in majority of the mobile devices and this can turn out to be negative for consumers because it restricts innovation and stifles competition. At first look, it appears that the Europeans might actually be right. It device makers want to have the Google Play app in their phones, they also have to include the Chrome browser and Google search and make Google the default search engine.
In the case of some manufacturers, Google actually pays to get its search engine installed as a default option according to a court filing last year. For instance, Apple Inc. receives $1 billion annually for this purpose. However, this is not something new because anyone who is above 20 has seen it happen before; the Internet Explorer browser was embedded by Microsoft in its Windows desktop operating system, which was termed as a tying arrangement. In the late 1990s, Microsoft had been accused by the European Union regulators and the Justice Department for illegally trying to expand its dominant position in operating systems to search and Internet browsers. The cases were eventually settled by Microsoft.
Nonetheless, this has been rendered almost irrelevant because of the rapid increase in the use of mobile and tablet devices. While the largest market share is still held by the latest version of the Internet Explorer for the desktop internet browsers, it only has a small, almost negligible share for the quickly growing mobile and tablet devices where Google Chrome is currently dominating. The superficial similarities between the new Android case and the old Microsoft case have also been undermined due to technological change.
Previously, if consumers wanted to use any other browser other than the free Internet Explorer such as Netscape, they had to purchase a disk from the store and then install it on their PCs. Today, you can get access to a rival browser with just a few taps. However, most people are satisfied by the Google offering and don’t look elsewhere for their browsing needs. In addition, adding or substituting apps has become so easy these days that Google’s agreements with device makers may not be considered as tying arrangements.
Of course, being the default app is a solid advantage; otherwise, Google would not be paying such a hefty sum to Apple, but consumers have the option of switching if they want to. Moreover, it is also not required by manufacturers to preinstall any Google apps on phones and tablets using Android as this open source system is available for free. Also, even if a tying arrangement is found, it is still not bad or illegal for consumers. It is just a problem for rivals and no more.