Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
Mateusz Wlodarczyk / Getty
  • Google is going to make it easier for Android users in Europe to select competing browsers and search apps.
  • It follows Google being fined a record $5 billion last year after it was found in breach antitrust laws for abusing the dominance of its Android operating system.
  • The EU is expected to slap Google with a third antitrust fine in as many years later today.

Google is rolling out a major change to its Android phones after being found in breach of EU antitrust laws last year - and ahead of a suspected new penalty later on Wednesday.

In July 2018, the EU's antitrust watchdog slapped Google with a $5 billion (R72 billion) fine for abusing the dominance of its Android platform. Google appealed the decision, but it seems the company is conceding some points to the EU.

On Tuesday, Google announced that it would be supporting competing browsers and search apps on Android in Europe, although it emphasised that it never expressly blocked users from installing competing browsers.

"On Android phones, you've always been able to install any search engine or browser you want, irrespective of what came pre-installed on the phone when you bought it," the company's SVP of global affairs, Kent Walker, said in a blog.

Nonetheless, Google says it will be easier for Android users to select browsers and search apps other than its own. It follows a move in October last year, which changed the way Google licensed its apps so phone makers didn't have to accept them all as a bundle.

"Now we'll also do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones. This will involve asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use," Google's Walker said.

Microsoft was forced into a similar position by the EU in 2010. Following a complaint from competitor Opera, Windows had to offer users a choice of 12 browsers rather than just furnish them with its own Internet Explorer.

Google's announcement comes ahead of a fresh antitrust fine later on Wednesday. A spokesman for Margrethe Vestager, the Commissioner for Competition, announced that there will be a press conference pertaining to an antitrust decision at 11.30 a.m. CET. The Financial Times reported last week that Vestager was gearing up to fine Google following an investigation into Google's AdSense business.

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