We’ve been here before with Google; the company has been the target of European regulators several times. Depending on where your allegiances lie, you can argue either the EU is too strict, or Google is simply not learning its lesson. Either way, the search giant is facing yet another huge fine from the European Commission.
However, this time it could lead to a wider problem and Google having a Microsoft situation. We’ll discuss that, but first let’s look at why the company is yet again in hot water on the Old Continent.
Regulators in the Union are targeting the Android mobile OS. Specifically, authorities believe Google has been using Android to stifle competition in the mobile market. Among the accusations towards the company are forcing smartphone OEMs to have Google Search and Chrome pre-installed on devices or to access the Play Store.
By forcing this, the European Commission argues the company has an unfair advantage and is limiting choice. Naturally, Google vehemently denies the charges and contests Android promotes competition.
The company is unlikely to successfully argue its case, so should be facing a hefty fine. Of course, this is nothing new to Google as it has been hit by fines consistently in recent years. That includes a record punishment of $2.7 billion last year. That fine was for the way the company handles shopping searches and it seems the upcoming punishment will be more severe.
While Google will not want a massive multi-billion dollar fine, the company can ride such a loss. More worrying is that the current climate is pushing against big tech and the search giant could face being broken up.
Data management scandals, including the most recent Facebook mess, have stoked a fire. Consumers and regulators are tired of tech companies not getting their house in order. Facebook, Google, Amazon and to a lesser extent Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft are now target of increased regulatory control.
There is now a real threat that nations will begin breaking up tech giants and Google is arguably the most vulnerable. This is a real possibility too, and there has been precedent.
In 1998, at the height of Microsoft’s powers with Windows the dominant operating system, the US government and EU went after the company. They were unhappy with the company bundling Internet Explorer and Media Player with the OS and the EU forced Microsoft to unbundle them.
There is an argument that the ruling allowed Google to get a jump start in its fledgling years. Moreover, it paved the way for the US Government’s anti-monopoly case against Microsoft. That’s a complicated moment in tech history but too tangled to go into depth on here. However, it is worth noting it resulted in a controversial settlement, but distracted Microsoft enough so it missed many major tech movements at the turn of the century.
Make no mistake, the threat of Google facing a similar fate or worse is real. It’s scaremongering language for sure, but the EU is getting tougher on companies and times are changing.