Google is braced for a record fine over its Android operating system in the coming hours from the EU.
The European Commission has claimed the US tech giant’s mobile device strategy unfairly strengthened its dominance of search and could fine the firm up to 10% of its annual revenue (potentially £8.5bn)
It could also force Google to unbundle Android from its Chrome browser and other services.
The firm is accused of breaking European competition law by forcing Android smartphone makers to install Google apps, such as its search engine and Chrome browser, if they want to run the Google Play app store.
Other app stores are available, however, they do not have the same offerings as the Google Play Store.
As a result, Google makes billions from the Google search software installed on almost every Android phone.
The European Commission stated two years ago that the need to have Google Play Store on Anroid phones denies rivals such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine, the chance to strike deals with smartphone companies to have its search engine installed, an accusation that Google has denied.
Despite this, the final outcome remains unclear, but it is thought that the decision could have a significant impact on Android devices.
It is expected that the exclusivity agreement is illegal effectively allowing smartphone makers to retain the Google Play Store, while not having to install Google’s search engine, Gmail app and Chrome browser
According to a Telegraph article, smartphone companies like Samsung could then seek deals with rivals to sell space on their phones, or seek to push their own software.
This could result in, for example, Microsoft paying to have its Bing search bar installed as the default on certain phones.
However, due to customers already being used to Google apps, many have questioned if such a change would make a difference.
Richard Windsor of Edison Investment Research said: “Users in the EU are now completely accustomed to using Google services and have come to prefer them.
“Separating Google Play from the rest of Google’s services would have very little impact as users would simply download and install them from the store.”
Google has already made concessions in Russia following complaints from local competition.
Android users in Russia are given a choice between Google, Yandex and Mail.ru as the default search engine the first time they use the Chrome browser.