The European Commission has accused Google of being anticompetitive, using its size to influence how Android applications get distributed over the platform. They charge that Google has been able to prioritise its own applications over those of competitors by “forcing” the companies that make devices with Android agree to install a subset of Google’s applications by default.
As an Android developer, I don’t see the problem. Google offers Android as an open platform that anybody is free to use, modify, improve upon and distribute. Google views its own proprietary applications as an enhancement to that platform and if you want them, you have to provide what most people agree is an improved and more consistent user experience. As a developer, having consistency across different devices and versions of Android is a massive relief.
Part of the reason for the success iOS is that Apple has been able to provide that consistent experience with total control over the device, firmware and software. It’s in my nature as a fan of open-source software to want disregard the fact, but it’s undeniable, and it’s one of the things that Google has struggled in the past to achieve.
When one must provide a consistent experience across a plethora of devices with an unknown number of vendors, how could one achieve this? By offering an exclusive set of consistent applications that users can rely and depend on.
To put it another way: Google is in trouble with the EC for acting in the best interests of both the developers and the users. The Commission probably has good intentions, but I’m concerned their actions might have a very negative impact on my work and that of other developers. I haven’t even gone into the security implications posed by third party application distributions (trust me, it’s bad).
From my perspective, Android works better than ever. I hope the European Commission pays attention to what people like me have to say about it before forcing drastic changes that would almost certainly have unintended consequences.
Ash Davies is an Android Developer who lives in the city of beer and sausages and muses over fond memories of British tea and salt & vinegar crisps.