The European Union is expected to hammer Google with a second big antitrust fine, raising questions among some about whether these are the first steps in the regulatory break up of the search and advertising giant.
Google also faces lawsuits over Internet privacy and data sharing resulting from a new EU law ordering companies to be more transparent about their use of data.
The latest European trouble for Google results from accusations that it uses its Android operating system for smartphones to squeeze out competitors. According to Reuters:
As a deterrent to others, the EU penalty is likely to top the record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.8 billion) fine handed out to Google last year for unfairly favoring its shopping service, sources told Reuters last year.
The EU competition enforcer will also tell Google to stop its anti-competitive practices such as licensing deals which prevent smartphone makers from promoting alternatives to apps such as Google Search and Maps.
The latest action in Europe has some musing on whether Google has reached its “Microsoft moment.” After all, regulators forced changes upon Microsoft back in the desktop days when it bundled Internet Explorer and its media player with Windows.
Tom Warren writes in The Verge:
Microsoft had a similar fight with the EU more than 10 years ago. Microsoft was accused of bundling its Windows Media Player with Windows, and the EU forced it to unbundle the app so that competitors could get a fair advantage. Microsoft created a special version of Windows for Europe without the app, but it was the EU’s next ruling that really hurt the company. Microsoft was also accused of bundling its Internet Explorer browser with Windows, and the EU forced the company to include a browser ballot with non-Microsoft browsers in an effort to improve competition.
The EU’s changes helped push browser alternatives like Firefox and Chrome directly inside Windows, and rival browsers benefited. If the EU forces Google to make similar changes inside Android, those will be a much bigger headache than a record-breaking fine. Microsoft was paralyzed by the EU oversight, and the company had to consider its business decisions wisely as a result. We’ll find out next month if Google will face similar action.