Monday, November 27, 2023

Google Pays to Be Default on Samsung Phones

Adamya Sharma:

The ongoing Google vs. Epic trial has brought out another interesting piece of information. As per testimony presented by Epic Games (via Bloomberg), Google paid Samsung $8 billion over a period of four years to keep Search, Assistant, and Play Store as default services on Samsung phones.


One internal document also shows how Google saved $1 billion over four years by backtracking on its request to make Play Store the only app store shown on the home screen of Samsung devices.


Meanwhile, Google’s lawyers presented an internal 2019 email from Jamie Rosenberg, the former lead for Google Play and Android operations, saying his team was “halting” Project Banyan as “it created an incentive dynamic where store teams would be competing with each other.”

The stores would probably work better for customers and developers if there were competition.

Lauren Irwin (via Hacker News):

James Kolotouros, vice president for partnerships at Google, testified Monday in a San Francisco trial, saying that the company and Samsung were to share app store revenue to ensure Android mobile devices came with Google Play preinstalled.


In his testimony, Kolotouros said if the Google-affiliated app store wasn’t pre-downloaded on the phones, people would likely make the switch to Apple and its iPhone.

Paul Wiseman and Michael Liedtke (via Hacker News):

Appearing in the biggest antitrust trial in a quarter century, DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg testified Thursday that it was hard for his small search engine company to compete with Google because the powerhouse has deals with phone companies and equipment manufacturers to make its product the default search option on so many devices.


Weinberg testified that getting users to switch from Google was complicated, requiring as many as 30 to 50 steps to change defaults on all their devices, whereas the process could be shortened to just one click on each device.


In earlier testimony, Eric Lehman, a former Google software engineer, seemed to question one of the Justice Department’s key arguments: that Google’s dominance is entrenched because of the massive amount of data it collects from user clicks, which the company in turn leverages to improve future searches faster than competitors can.

But Lehman said machine learning has improved rapidly in recent years, to the point that computers can evaluate text on their own without needing to analyze data from user clicks.


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