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Naked Androids to rampage across Russia

Google settles antitrust case and pledges to open its OS to rival search engines and apps

Google has settled its Russian anti-trust case and will therefore open its Android OS to rivals in Vladimir Putin's demesne.

Russian Google analog Yandex kicked off the case in 2015, when it alleged Google forces handset-makers to put its own search engine front and centre on all Android devices. Google lost that case and was then fined about US$6.8m for its naughtiness.

The Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation has now announced a settlement. The fine stays and Google must now do the following:

  • Google will no longer demand exclusivity of its applications on Android-based devices in Russia
  • Google will be obliged not to restrict pre-installation of any competing search engines and applications (including on the default home screen)
  • Google will refrain from stimulating pre-installation of the Google search as the only general search engine
  • Google will no longer enforce the parts of the previously signed agreements that contradict to the terms of the settlement;
  • Google will be committed to securing the rights of the third parties to include their search engines into the choice window.

Those actions apply to future phones. For Russia's current Android fleet, “Google will develop an active 'choice window' for the Chrome browser which at the time of the next update will provide the user with the opportunity to choose their default search engine.”

Google will also be forced to offer any Russian search engines the chance to appear on that list of default search engines, subject to “a commercial agreement on their inclusion to the choice screen.”

Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh has hailed the settlement as representing “... an important day for Russian consumers as Google has agreed to take significant steps that open up its Android platform in Russia.”

Volozh goes on to say that “As one of the largest internet companies in Europe, and the leading search and mobile applications provider in Russia, access to platforms is critically important for Yandex.” He therefore thanks Google “... not only for their cooperation, but also for recognizing the value of openness.”

“We have always thought Google plays a constructive role in the Russian market. Competition breeds innovation. It’s our desire to participate in a market where users can choose the best services available.”

The European Union's running a similar case against Google, so the Russian settlement will be keenly-read in Brussels. Google's own-brand organs are silent on the settlement, but the company has consistently said that once the EU understands Android, it will also understand its complaints have no substance. ®

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