Google's Android license reportedly prevents TV makers from partnering with Amazon

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,160   +872
Staff member

According to a report from tech blog Protocol, Google has been using its Android licensing agreement to stifle competition from Amazon. Sources say that the current licensing agreement for the Android TV operating system prevents manufacturers from using "forked versions" such as Amazon's Fire TV.

What's more, if the OEM breaks the agreement, Google can revoke the Android license of any device the manufacturer produces. In other words, if Samsung made a smart TV using Amazon Fire, Google could not only disallow the use of the Play Store and Google apps on the televisions but on Samsung's phones as well.

"They cannot do Android TV and Fire TV simultaneously," said a senior insider from an unnamed "major TV manufacturer. "It basically blocked Amazon."

Considering that Google has partnerships with about 60 percent of the top smart-TV market and over 140 cable providers worldwide, this is a big deal. Google has faced flack from mobile regulators over such agreements in the past, but this is the first time it has come to light that it is pinching off smart-TV competition.

Protocol reached out to Google, but the search giant declined to comment on the matter. Likewise, officials with Amazon's Fire TV division refused to discuss the subject.

The section of Google's Android agreement that is raising the issue is referred to as the "Android Compatibility Commitment," formerly known as the "Anti-Fragmentation Agreement." It is a confidential set of rules that makers of Android devices agree to in order to gain access to the Google Play Store.

The policies are to ensure that one Android app will work properly on any device. While developers are allowed to tweak Android's open-source operating system, they must still abide by the compatibility guidelines. However, forked versions are not allowed. These are platforms like Fire TV that are not compatible with the "Google-sanctioned" version of Android.

The strange thing is that manufacturers who have products in different sectors have to comply across the board. In other words, if they have a compliant version of Android for mobile devices, they cannot put a noncompliant version like Fire TV on their televisions.

"You cannot manufacture any of those noncompliant devices," said the anonymous source. "It's completely unique [from other agreements in the industry]."

This is not the first time that Google's compatibility policies have raised eyebrows. In 2016, EU regulators launched an antitrust investigation alleging that the company used the agreement to prevent OEMs wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling devices running forked versions of Android. It ultimately issued a fine in 2018 of €4.34 billion ($5.06 billion), which Google has appealed.

No regulatory actions have occurred regarding the use of this policy in the smart TV sector, but until now, it has been more or less an open secret among manufacturers. We'll have to see if the FTC or other antitrust officials take action.

Masthead credit: RustyR via Shutterstock, Image credit: Eric Broder Van Dyke via Shutterstock

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DZillaXx

Posts: 373   +495
Kinda funny when Android TV makes up for a very small % of the market, and honestly is garbage. Better off with a Roku. Sony uses it on their TV's and it is slow and buggy. When it comes to Streaming boxes market, Roku and Fire TV rule. Even Apple TV has a smaller % of that market, and google is even less. On top of that Google fractions itself with Chromecast and its Android TV side project which is only ever done right with the nvidia streaming device.

FireTV would be awesome on a device like the Nvidia shield. It ties in nicely will all my apps. I can speak into the remote and it will pull content from any of my streaming apps. From apps that rely on a cable login or Netflix Hulu. FireTV acts as a hub that can search them all. Just like Roku does. Sadly my roku is a older non voice model, and I don't like to type. I wish a big TV manufacture would adopt FireTV. I have a QLED Samsung and still use my 4K Fire TV Stick over their garbage built in smart apps. Only Flaw with the Amazon Fire TV sticks is the lack of storage, the caching on some apps will fill the tiny amount of storage. Really annoying.
 

psycros

Posts: 3,613   +4,459
Google has just picked a fight with a pretty big dog. Bezos will probably try to be diplomatic at first but if Google doesn't back down it'll become a legal slugfest real quick..and one Google will probably lose.
 

StupidPeopleSuk

Posts: 40   +13
Hmmmm.... google vs. da 'Zon....

tis gonna get REAL ugly REAL fast, and me dont see bezoboy backin down on anything once he starts :)

BUT heres a thought,,,,,,

Let the government fine the crap out of google, to the tune of $100BN PER AGREEMENT, divide that money among everyone who has ever bought any devices with google's official droid version, and THEN outlaw any such clauses in any agreement anywhere anytime going back like 10-15 years....
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,464   +6,149
Hmmmm.... google vs. da 'Zon....

tis gonna get REAL ugly REAL fast, and me dont see bezoboy backin down on anything once he starts :)

BUT heres a thought,,,,,,

Let the government fine the crap out of google, to the tune of $100BN PER AGREEMENT, divide that money among everyone who has ever bought any devices with google's official droid version, and THEN outlaw any such clauses in any agreement anywhere anytime going back like 10-15 years....

Do you know the American government? A fine that large will never happen, not so long as google can throw lobbyists at the problem for far cheaper. This isn't some sort of democracy where every man is created equal. What you can or can't do is measured by the money in your bank.
 

Yynxs

Posts: 542   +190
Google profits 2 Bil per month
Amazon profits 1 Bil per month (no taxes paid)
If I were Bezos, I would fully fund a few sites like fdroid and bump up their security reviews procedures; pull in some ex-google bitter android devs and build better; and then put the advert for the availability on every Amazon display page.
Estimated ongoing cost to destroy that monopoly, probably under 10 Mil a month.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,229   +6,998
Google can try to enforce that one but they will ultimately loose in court. Such anti-competitive clauses rarely, and I mean VERY RARELY go anywhere. Just look under the laws governing restraint of trade, it's all there.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 2,720   +4,256
Google has just picked a fight with a pretty big dog. Bezos will probably try to be diplomatic at first but if Google doesn't back down it'll become a legal slugfest real quick..and one Google will probably lose.
Legal? No no no, lets have some FUN! All Amazon has to do is offer a better deal to these manufacturers then Google does. They already have alarger market share. Have amazon design some new hardware, get FireOS out there, really start twisting Google's arma nd make them come to the table asking for better terms. That's where the fun is for a multi billion dollar company.

And it will be not just cheaper but faster then a lawsuit.