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We have already posted on Google’s anti-competitive efforts to choke 3rd party app stores on Android, but it seems Google was considering going even further than contractually blocking OEMs from shipping their own app store.
Epic reports that at one point Google threatened to “lock down Play/Android and not allow sideloading,” presumably resulting in a similar app story as the iPhone.
Google reportedly said they had a “good privacy/security arguments” as to why sideloading may have been “dangerous” to Android users that would withstand scrutiny even by the European Union.
The security argument is of course the same reason why Apple said they do not allow side loading, and it seems clear that it works equally well as an excuse for controlling developers.
In a statement to the Verge a Google spokesman claimed “Epic’s lawsuit is baseless and mischaracterizes our business conversations. Android provides more choices in mobile devices for developers and consumers.”
Google ultimately made it easier for 3rd party app stores to install apps on Android 12 and the threats were not pursued, but it is likely that it was only the growing regulatory pressure on the ‘Do no evil’ company which prevented the actions.