Google to charge hardware makers up to $40 per device for Android mobile apps


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/10/19/android-phones.html


#2

So… they’re being fined for giving away their software? so now they have to charge for it? Or does this mean they have to charge separately for app vs the OS? or? did they charge anything at all before? I was under the impression google didn’t make money selling software (or at least their own software). Every article mentions google will charge per device for Android Apps but none seem to explain the rationale.


#3

Does seem a bit odd.

I mean if you really want to get paid for android, charge for android, don’t just wall off a near-essential part of it then charge for that :confused:

This does seem a way to fudge around the ‘open-source, kind-of. We still want to get paid’ thing though.


#4

Yes, kind of. It’s a decision that is similar to the one with Microsoft and Internet Explorer. The argument is that by mandating that any device that ships with the Google Play Store also include Chrome and Google Search as defaults Google is creating an unfair advantage. It’s important to remember that European anti-trust laws are designed to protect competition while US laws are designed to protect consumers.


#6

This is misleading. What people typically refer to as Android is a collection of three elements.

  • The hardware and base layer consisting of open source software such as Linux, libc and toybox.
  • The GUI, core Java libraries and application framework, called the Android Open Source Project (OASP) it is released under the Apache licence.
  • The core Google applications, including the Dialer, Camera, Google Play and libraries such as the location, games and cast APIs. These are all proprietary programs and require a licence from Google.

People can and have used the first two elements without Google licences. The Amazon products uses both, FirefoxOS used just the first. However most people don’t regard these products as being proper Android devices.

Kotlin was created by JetBrains, not Google. It was created because Java is ick and has nothing to do with the licence of the code written in the language. There are innumerable proprietary and open source programs written in C and compiled by GCC, the compiler and language are independent of the licence.

As many people have pointed out this hissy fit by a few developers has no legs. There are a variety of legal and practical reasons for this but nobody is making serious decisions because of this threat.

This isn’t punishing any consumer because nobody will pay the fee. They offer the software unbundled because that satisfies their legal obligations. Then they charge a punitive fee for it to ensure nobody ever takes up the offer. In reality every manufacturer will agree to the complete bundle and pay $0, just as they did last week.


#7

Absolutely true. This is also an example of a reason why so many people are so jaded about EU. Too many things start off as a high minded principle, go through a stage of a deliberate political and legal theater and on the end status quo ends up unchanged…

I mean sure but after all this is now market more competitive and am I as an user any better off than before?


#8

40$ to get rid of google’s spying? That is a bargain. Where do I get the phone, please?


#9

You can keep your $40 (and your tinfoil hat) by simply picking up a Chinese Android phone, since GAPPs are not available in that market.

Of course, you then would have to deal with actual spying, but hey, you do you.


#10

Sorry Lodd, I deleted my post. This isn’t a hill I wanted to die on. But after doing so, I had that tingling sensations that draws me back to my keyboard when I think someone might be wrong.

I’m not sure why you think it is misleading to stress that Google does not own android. Every comment above yours seems to assume ownership of Android by google (theodore604: “they’re being fined for giving away their software”, failquail understands the nuances of services versus the entire platform, but seems to acknowledge Google’s right to charge for the lot, agies equates the matter to microsoft’s sole ownership of internet explorer and windows). As an amateur developer I understand the strata of Google’s involvement, but what is misleading about pointing out the fact that the core technologies are not owned (as you acknowledged) by Google? Is it misleading to also stress that Google does not own the technologies that produced Android - namely its foundational components, the language and the core os.

As for Kotlin you are patently wrong. Who developed Kotlin is immaterial next to the fact that Java is now primarily managed by Oracle and they have been repeatedly suing Google over its use (including a victory over use of the core Java API in Android). Additionally, you are right, us developers may be unconcerned with recent contributor issues within Linux, but alongside pressures from Java, Android needs to develop a copyright structure that is more resilient to these legal attacks - they said exactly that way back in 2011.

Your closing remark confuses me a bit

I’m not sure what was added by your comment - you obviously have a better ready knowledge of the core Android architecture. That said, what - may I kindly ask - is gained by an apathetic nod to Google’s ability to assuage consumer angst by reasserting the status quo following a legal action attempting to reign in that status qou?

As a matter of fact, I’ll be a little personal (apologies) I develop law enforcement software in Asia for the purposes of assisting NGOs in the fight against human trafficking. We have a product that literally saves lives. We have quantifiable records of individuals who have been rescued from labour trafficking, sexual trafficking and child abuse. Because of a violation of copyright our application was removed from the Google Play store for over a month in order to go through arbitration. During that time many individuals could not use our platform. It is possible and even likely (but I can not say with certainty) that lives were lost or left unrescued right here in my nation because Google took down our app for copyright infringement. It took us over a month to have Google assess our case despite a state 72 hour response window. We where completely innocent of copyright infringement - in fact the copyright we were accused of infringing belonged to us!!! It took us over a month for Google to clear us, we contacted everyone we know including celebrities to put pressure on Google. And this is not a a unique situation, many developers are red carded by google for opaque reasons, with almost no recourse. When there is literally no viable alternative to release an application, that represents a serious problem to consumers, both in terms of application availability and application introduction. Google is unaccountable and these lawsuits represent their failure to “do no evil”.

I’m not too concerned about how much you spend on you next phone, but I am disappointed that from a PR perspective everyone in the western world seems to think Google is being unfairly targeted and supports their pivot on this legal matter by creative pricing. Yes EU citizens will probably see no difference as they accept Google’s terms, but is that a good thing? I’m glad you don’t pay a few extra dollars for the next Pixel and that customers really don’t care, but how does that address the core issue that Google Play services really have no competition and as a result developers are forced to abide by Google’s draconian and opaque regulations at great cost to developers and non commercial work.

But I get it this is about the bottom dollar, not the ethics surrounding an organisation whose market position makes competition all but impossible (and as a consequence makes their business practices - especially outside the western world - above the law). I’m just a bit surprised by everyone’s support of Google. C’est la vie.


#11

They do, the legal problem with Oracle was the adoption of portions of the Oracle/Sun Java JDK, the solution was a switch to the OpenJDK. Kotlin still requires a Java JDK to work, it isn’t a solution to these legal issues.

There seemed to be a lot of angst about this announcement, increased costs to the consumer references to open source etc. When the reality is that nothing in practice is changing.

This wasn’t a statement of desire. My personal preference would be that Google cease any bundling allowing device makers and consumers to pick and choose which applications are included. However pushing for a change like that first requires people to understand the current situation and the reasons for change.

I don’t like the culture of App stores, your story of having your application arbitrarily taken down is not unique and is just one of a number of issues of having software go through a filter with unclear rules, US morals and limited avenues of appeal. The culture of heavy top down control is very much in line with Steve Jobs’ philosophy, I feel Google followed Apple’s lead on this mostly because of how profitable it was. Android at least allows side loading with dire warnings, my understanding is that it isn’t possible on iOS without significant effort.

What particularly worries me is the attempts by Apple with the Mac App Store and the Microsoft Store to shift this to the PC. Fortunately the efforts have so far failed but neither organisation has given up.

I am too, for a number of reasons.

One of the big ones is the way they are steadily undermining the open portions of Android, the AOSP system. They started with an open source system which included all the core applications such as dialer, calendar, contact list, messenger etc. Over time they have ceased all development work on these programs and have instead introduced proprietary replacements such as the dialer that is standard on most systems.

This is symptomatic of their underlying dislike for open source, especially the GPL.

However we can’t have a conversations about this and why it is troubling while people still believe Android to be fully open source.


#12

Charging money is now a new option. Before, you had two options. You could either have no Google apps installed, or you could sign an agreement with Google and get the apps for free.

That agreement basically said that if you installed one app, you had to install them all, you needed to default to Google search, and a handful of other requirements that all boiled down to making sure that Google was prominent on your phone and the phone conformed to some basic rules. So, Google’s apps were free, but taking those free apps means that Google bakes itself pretty deeply into the phone, and they have some level of control over what you can do. Basically, this is what all mainstream Android phones do. They all have Google’s apps, meet some requirements on hardware, OS version, and default to Google search.

The other option was of course to ignore Google, run your own version of open source Android operating system. Android is open source so you can just grab the source roll your own, but if you went down this path you would be shut out of the Google Play store. This is basically what Amazon did with their Fire tablets. They refused Google’s agreement and made their own app store, mail, calendar, etc.

This ruling changed none of that. That deal still exists. Google’s stuff is still free if you sign their agreement and agree to their rules. The difference is that now is there is a third option. Google will also sell their apps for money without the agreement attached. So, basically nothing has changed, except there is now another option.

Honestly, I think this ruling is going to backfire on consumers, if it does anything at all. I think the only companies that are going to take advantage of this new deal are companies that want to bake in their own crapware. Before, their was a limit to how badly they could muck it up because they had to follow Google’s rules. Now, they can pay to get out of those rules and still keep access to the Play Store. I hope I’m wrong, but I honestly just can’t think of anything good someone is going to do with the new option. I can only think of bad things.


#13

Why are there always people on these forums to defend google, a multibillions company, and imply anyone who wants to protect their privacy is a lunatic (“tinfoil hat”)? Honest question: do you have interest in the matter, being in the business of selling advertisements or being an app developer yourself?

I simply said that I would be ready to pay for a cellphone of my liking. It should be my choice as a customer whether I want to bring the business to host my private data to google, apple or a server of my liking. I don’t need any other justification for you to know.

At the moment, I am installing Lineage on a new smartphone. That phone will only use software from Fdroid where the source code is written and audited by people who have no business interests in selling the privacy of their users. I get help from acquaintances who went to the same process of changing their phone firmware. The process is tedious and I would be ready to pay for not having to do the work and get better support from the phone manufacturer.


#14

That’s what I assume but I’m kind of left wondering where do they get their price point from? who decides? Does it have to come out of the initial licensing fee for Android as a whole? I assume they charged manufacturer’s something per handset… but maybe not?


#15

Pretty sure you’re missing the point you don’t pay 40 dollars to be free of their software. The manufacturer is paying 40 dollars to install it.


#16

Google decided on the $40 price point. The EU basically said “here’s a fine, now don’t do it again.” I imagine Google looked at how much Microsoft charges OEMs to license Windows and used that as a point of reference.

As far as I know there is no license fee for Android.


#17

I know. My understanding of the situation is that the manufacturer pays 40$ if they want to install the google store (which is the only thing they really want) without the full package.

Manufacturers don’t want to install the rest, because the rest is what brings in the advertising revenue. The manufacturer are tempted to get some of that revenue themselves. This is actually the google deal: 40$ upfront, but if we still get the advertising revenue, you get that money back. Google wants to keep the advertising business for themselves.

Now, my sources say that the typical revenue on a two years phone lifespan is 400$, ten times what google is charging (I am not sure, that may also include app revenue or may be the figure for the USA only). That is how much privacy is sold for.

400$ is why I said 40$ is a bargain. But I’ll raise my offer: give me a cell phone witht the same services we are used to, but real privacy and I will consider adding 400$ to the price.


#18

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