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Google announces sweeping Android changes in India

Google has announced a series of changes to its Android system in India after the search giant lost a major anti-trust case in the country.

This includes allowing users to choose their default search engine on Android.

The move comes after India’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the country’s anti-trust watchdog that said the company had abused its market position.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) fined the company $161m, accusing it of “unfair” business practices.

About 97% of smartphones in India are estimated to run on Android.

Anti-trust proceedings against the tech giant started in October, when CCI asked Google to make several changes to its Android ecosystem.

The watchdog said Google was “abusing” the licensing of its Android operating system for a range of smartphones, web searches, browsing and video hosting services.

It accused Google of entering into “one-sided agreements” with smartphone makers to ensure the dominance of its apps.

CCI said this was stifling competition and gave Google continuous access to consumer data and lucrative advertising opportunities.

It ordered the company to stop such practices.

Google had challenged CCI’s directives in the Supreme Court, saying “no other jurisdiction has ever asked for such far-reaching changes.” It argued that the changes directed by CCI would force the company to alter arrangements with more than 1,100 device manufacturers and thousands of app developers.

But the court refused to block the CCI directives and said that a lower court, where Google had first challenged the order, could continue hearing the appeal, but should give a ruling before the end of March.

Last week, the tech giant said it would cooperate with the watchdog.

On Wednesday, the company announced that it would allow device makers in India to license its individual apps for pre-installation and allow users to choose their default search engine.

Implementation of these changes will be a “complex process”, the company said in a blog post, that would require “significant work at our end and, in many cases, significant efforts from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers”.

Google is facing a series of anti-trust cases in India and authorities are also probing its conduct in the smart TV market.


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