South Korea has fined Google $177 million over its efforts to prevent handset makers from using forks of the Android operating systems (OS).
While Android is commonly viewed as a Google product, at its core Android is an open source operating system, called AOSP (Android Open Source Project). Any company or entity is free to take AOSP and use it and customize it for their own purposes, just as Google does. There are a number of Android distributions, such as the excellent CalyxOS, that take AOSP and release it free of Google’s trackers for the more privacy-conscious.
Unfortunately, despite some AOSP distributions being superior to Google’s version of Android, few if any have been able to get OEM deals to be pre-installed on handsets. Much of this is the result of Google requiring handset manufactures to sign its “anti-fragmentation agreement (AFA).” The AFA prohibits handset makers from shipping phones with an alternative Android distribution installed, or from developing their own.
According to Yonhap News, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) — South Korea’s antitrust regulator — has fined Google $177 million for its anti-competitive practices in regard to the AFA.
“We expect the latest measures will help set the stage for competition to revive in the mobile OS and app markets. This is also expected to help the launch of innovative goods and services in smart device markets,” the KFTC said.
Hopefully, the KFTC’s ruling will help CalyxOS, and others like it, to gain traction within the Android ecosystem.