Google undermined 3rd-party app stores on Android platform: Report

(IANS) In a bid to undermine third-party app stores on Android platform, Google reportedly ran a ‘Premier Device Programme’ that gave Android phone makers a greater share of search revenue than they would normally receive.

According to The Verge, newly unredacted sections of Fortnite developer Epic’s antitrust complaint against Google have revealed new details.

After Google ran a ‘Premier Device Programme,’ the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) agreed to ship their devices without any third-party app stores preinstalled.

The products that “qualified as a Premier Device would receive a 12 percent share of Google search revenue compared to the 8 percent they’d normally earn,” the report said on Thursday.

“Google’s Premier Device Programme was not publicly known, and was not known to Epic, before Google recently began producing relevant documents in this litigation,” Epic’s lawyers wrote in the complaint.

“Google has sought to conceal its most restrictive anticompetitive conduct by, among other things, including in the agreements themselves a provision restricting signatories from making ‘any public statement regarding [the] Agreement without the other party’s prior written approval.'”

Google made the deal better for companies like LG and Motorola, “offering them between 3 and 6 percent of what customers spent in the Google Play Store on their devices”.

Epic argued that the Google programme effectively tilted the scales against third-party stores on Android.

As they bitterly fought over the popular Fortnite game on Play Store, Google even reportedly considered buying ‘some or all’ of its developer Epic Games.

According to newly unsealed court filings seen by The Verge, Google allegedly offered a “special deal” to launch Fortnite back on Android Store.

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted on Friday that this was “unbeknownst to us at the time, and because of the court’s protective order we’re just finding out now about Google’s consideration of buying Epic to shut down our efforts to compete with Google Play”.

Epic claimed that Google was threatened by its plans to sidestep Google’s official Play Store commission by distributing Fortnite through other channels.

Epic is also involved in a legal battle with Apple. Apple’s main trial with Epic finished in May, with both sides now awaiting a decision from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on the matter.

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