Google announced that it will now prompt Android users in Europe to notify them of their browser and search engine alternatives outside of Google’s products, per a company blog post. While Chrome and Google Search will likely remain pre-installed on Android phones, the move is meant to make it easier for consumers to consider their options rather than simply default to what’s there.
The decision is part of a continued effort to assuage the European Commission’s (EC) antitrust concerns, which previously fined the company $5.1 billion for forcing Android device manufacturers to preinstall its apps on their handsets.
The move might appease the EC, but it could open up Google to risks on two fronts:
- It could negatively impact its ad business, which accounts for nearly all of its overall revenue. Google’s advertising revenue increases per page view, meaning the more eyes that land on web pages in Chrome and Google Search results, the more Google makes. While it’s unlikely users will abandon Google Search and Chrome en masse, even slight seepage could affect the company: Advertising revenue made up 83% of Google’s total revenue in Q4 2018.
- Google’s competitors offer services that are comparable with — or even distinct from — its own offerings, which could encourage users to leave. For example, Opera released a version of its browser that offers consumers a free and unlimited built-in VPN service, which offers enhances security and privacy while using the internet. And Bing recently added an intelligent answer feature that answers queries with information aggregated from multiple sources, keeping pace with Google Search’s offering.
There are real risks to Google’s move, but they’re likely negligible, and worth stomaching if it means reducing regulatory strife and heading off additional fines.
- The company has such a dominating lead in both the browser and search market in Europe that the loss of some market share is unlikely to have an impact on its position. Google Search accounts for over 97% of Europe’s mobile search engine market. Meanwhile, Chrome controls 60% of the mobile browser market in Europe, with its closest competitor, Samsung Internet, only capturing a 10% share.
- And Android phone owners are likely to stick with their current Google-owned offerings, even when given a choice to assert their preferences. Google dominates on other platforms too as it controls 90% of the European desktop search engine market, while Chrome accounts for 64% of the European desktop browser market. Android phone owners are already accustomed to using Google’s services and will likely prefer to stay with those they are familiar with.
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