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Russia orders Google to stop preinstalling its own Android apps

Russian competition authorities give Google until November 18 to reverse contracts requiring phone makers install its apps.

Russian authorities have given Google a November 18 deadline to stop bundling its own apps with its Android software for mobile phones and tablets.

By installing its apps on all phones that run Android, Google is abusing its dominant position in the Russian market, ruled the country's Federal Antimonopoly Service in September. The Mountain View, California, company's contractual requirements for device makers to install Google apps makes it hard for competitors to gain a foothold against the Internet giant, the agency said.

"To restore competition on the market, Google should amend agreements with mobile-device producers within a month and exclude the anticompetitive clauses that limit installment of apps and services by other developers," the FAS said Monday, according to a translation of the agency's statement. Google could face fines of up to 15 percent of its 2014 revenue from preinstalled apps in Russia if it fails to make changes by the November deadline.

Google's Android software could soon look dramatically different in Russia. Google

The decision doesn't directly affect people outside Russia, but it could be a preview of what's to come. The European Commission is investigating whether Google has undermined competition with Android, and a similar investigation is reportedly under way now in the United States.

The change required in Russia could dramatically alter the look of Android, which powers more than 80 percent of the world's smartphones. Core features like email, navigation and search could play a totally different role in the operating system. The same applies to Web browsing, music and the suite of Google Drive apps that for many are an integral part of the Android experience.

The Antimonopoly Service launched its investigation in February based on a complaint lodged against Google by Russian search and online services rival Yandex. The competition authority found Google violated federal rules in the middle of September.

In its response, Google said manufacturers and Android device owners may stray from the Google path if they want. "Device makers are free to use Android with or without Google applications and consumers have complete freedom to use rival applications," a Google representative said. The company didn't say how it would respond to the Russian demands.

Even if phone makers have that freedom, it's nearly impossible to find an Android smartphone that has been shipped without Google apps.

Android phones and tablets are made by established tech titans like Samsung and Sony, and Chinese upstarts like Huawei and Xiaomi. Each company usually layers some of its own software over the top of Android, which Google lets anyone use and modify for free.