Google is in court this week attempting to overturn a $5 billion fine imposed by the European Commission, and its argument appears to be a simple one: iOS exists, so how can Android be anticompetitive?
The fine was levied in 2018, after the Commission found that Google was forcing Android manufacturers to pre-install an entire bundle of Google apps if they wanted to use any of them and also was making deals preventing those manufacturers from forking and building their own versions of Android. The investigation was particularly focused on the Play Store, Search and Chrome. In response, Google began charging a licensing fee for some of its services, and added features such as a screen that allows users to pick a default search engine when they first set up their phone.
Android's worldwide market share may be overwhelming, but Google still claims it's an underdog. "The Commission shut its eyes to the real competitive dynamic in this industry, that between Apple and Android," Meredith Pickford, Google's lawyer in the case, told the European Court of Justice's General Court on Monday. "By defining markets too narrowly and downplaying the potent constraint imposed by the highly powerful Apple, the Commission has mistakenly found Google to be dominant in mobile operating systems and app stores, when it was in fact a vigorous market disrupter."
The Commission's response? Apple's market share is small in the EU, and its business model is different. "Bringing Apple into the picture doesn't change things very much. Google and Apple pursue different models," Commission lawyer Nicholas Khan said, per Reuters. Both Google and Apple argue that the very existence of the other company means there's no shortage of competition, but that argument may be easier to make in the U.S.
Google's hearing is expected to last for five days, and promises to get deep in the weeds of the company's business model around the world. But its success may rely on convincing the court that Apple is the real bad guy in the market.