Google makes policy changes to accomodate CCI directives

In deference to the Competition Commission of India’s directives, Google said in a blog on Wednesday that it will make “some key changes” such as allowing handset makers to license individual Google apps for pre-installation on their devices, providing Indian users with the option to choose their default search engine, updating the Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants, and providing a user choice billing to all apps and games starting next month.

Google’s move comes less than a week after the Supreme Court denied its plea to grant a stay on CCI’s October order, fining the company 1337.76 crore for abusing its dominance in the Android market. The CCI order flagged key agreements Google makes with developers, and said that they violate competition norms, directing the company to make appropriate changes.

In its blog post on Wednesday, Google said it will continue to “respectfully appeal” certain aspects of the CCI’s decisions, but will also make changes in the meanwhile, specific to India. The post, however, added that “Implementation of these changes across the ecosystem will be a complex process and will require significant work at our end and, in many cases, significant efforts from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers.”

Among the key changes, Google will now allow device makers (also known as original equipment manufacturers) to license individual Google apps for pre-installation on their devices in India. In addition, Indian users will now have the option to choose a default search engine via a “choice screen” that will start to appear when a user sets up a new Android smartphone or tablet in India.

Furthermore, the company said it will offer “user choice billing” for all apps and games from next month, which will allow developers distributing apps through the Play Store to choose payment options other than Google’s own ones. While this wasn’t part of the directives in CCI’s October order, the competition regulator had levied another fine of 986 crore on Google in November on this particular issue.

Lastly, the company said it has made changes to Android’s “installation flow” for sideloaded apps. This was part of a recent Android update, as part of which the Android platform will be able to flag is sideloaded apps are known to be malicious. So far, Android used to flash a warning message to users if a sideloaded app was being installed. Now, the platform can also flag whether these apps are already known to be malicious.

Sideloading is the practice of downloading apps from outside the Google Play Store, through websites, other app stores etc. Android used to display a warning message informing users that third-party downloads could lead to malicious programs on their phones.

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