Google fined $7 billion for forcing software on phone makers

European regulators came down hard on another US tech giant overnight fining Google a record US$5 billion (NZ$7.3 billion) for forcing cellphone makers that use the company's Android operating system to install Google search and browser apps.

The European Union said Google's practices restrict competition and reduce choices for consumers.

While Google can easily afford the fine, the ruling could hurt the company's business model, which relies on giving away its operating system in return for opportunities to sell ads and other products.

Google immediately said it will appeal, arguing that its free operating system has led to lower-price phones and created competition with its chief rival, Apple.

Android has "created more choice for everyone, not less," Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted.

The fine, which caps a three-year investigation, is the biggest ever imposed on a company by the EU for anticompetitive behavior.

It is likely to stoke tensions between Europe and the US, which regulates the tech industry with a lighter hand and has complained that the EU is singling out American companies for punishment.

Still, some US politicians welcomed the ruling.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut tweeted that the fine should "be a wake-up call" to the Federal Trade Commission and "should lead US enforcers to protect consumers." Blumenthal previously called on regulators to investigate how Google tracks users of Android phones.

In its ruling, the EU said Google broke the rules by requiring cellphone makers to take a bundle of Google apps if they wanted any at all.

The bundle contains 11 apps, including YouTube, Maps and Gmail, but regulators focused on three that had the largest market share: Google's Search and Chrome apps, and its Play Store app marketplace.

The EU gave Google 90 days to come up with remedies that could allow rival search apps and browsers onto more phones. Failure to comply risks a further penalty of up to US$15 million a day.

The EU also took issue with Google's payments to wireless carriers and phone makers to exclusively pre-install the Google Search app.

It ruled, too, that Google broke the law by forcing manufacturers that took its apps to commit to not selling devices that use altered versions of Android.

Google logo Source: Associated Press



Donald Trump giving Air Force One 'top of the line, red white and blue' makeover

President Donald Trump says Air Force One is getting a patriotic makeover.

Trump says the familiar baby blue colour on the presidential aircraft will give way to a red, white and blue colour scheme. Updated models could be in service before the end of a potential Trump second term.

"Air Force One is going to be incredible," Trump told CBS News. "It's going to be top of the line, the top in the world, and it's going to be red, white and blue, which I think is appropriate."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that the Air Force awarded Chicago-based Boeing Co. a $3.9 billion contract for two presidential planes that will be ready in 2024. They will replace a pair of Boeing 747 jumbo jets that are now 31 years old.

The contract confirms a deal reached in February by Trump, the Air Force and Boeing. Sanders said the final price represented a savings of $1.4 billion from an initial contract proposal.

The presidential plane — it goes by the radio call sign of Air Force One when the president is on board — was once a Boeing 707 that had orange above and below the nose and "United States of America" painted on the sides in blocky, all-caps lettering.

According to Boeing history, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy picked new colours for the plane used by her husband, President John F. Kennedy. A swath of baby blue covers the nose and sweeps back along each side of the fuselage. The lettering was changed to a font inspired by the heading of the Declaration of Independence.

The livery was the work of French-born industrial designer Raymond Loewy, whose previous clients included Lucky Strike cigarettes and Studebaker cars. The Museum of Modern Art in New York describes his Air Force One design as modern and elegant.

The plane is immediately recognized around the world.

Trump said he began thinking about a redesign after reaching a deal for new planes.

Loewy wrote that President Kennedy picked the blue paint scheme over a red one. Some accounts said Kennedy rejected the Air Force's red and gold theme because it looked too imperial.

David Hagerman, who was married to Loewy's daughter and knew Loewy's widow, said Mrs. Kennedy wanted Air Force One redesigned because she considered the old livery ugly. Dropping the baby blue now, he said Wednesday, "is an insult to the memory of Jacqueline Kennedy."

"It's a travesty to break from tradition and put a new paint job on the plane," Hagerman said. "Air Force One is the No. 1 iconic symbol of America worldwide."

The awarding of the final contract comes after more than a year of back-and-forth between Trump and Boeing over the cost of new planes.

Trump tweeted in December 2016, after he was elected but before taking office, that costs for the program were "out of control, more than $4 billion." He added, "Cancel order!"

Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg and Trump met several times to discuss the Air Force One contract. Boeing boasted that it was proud to build the new presidential planes, and it promised to give taxpayers a good deal.

Boeing said work including design, modifications and testing of two 747-8 planes will be done in San Antonio and is expected to be finished by December 2024.

FILE - In this April 6, 2017, file photo, members of the White House press corps board Air Force One before the arrival of President Donald Trump at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.   Trump says Air Force One is getting a patriotic makeover. Trump says the familiar baby blue color on current models of the presidential aircraft will give way to red-white-and-blue coloring on updated models that could be in service in time for a potential second term. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Air Force One is set for a new look. Source: 1 NEWS

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Watch: Laughter as Prince Harry fools around with bow and arrow on visit to injured rugby players at Twickenham

The Duke of Sussex attended the Rugby Football Union's Injured Players Foundation's annual Client Forum at Twickenham Stadium today.

After being greeted by the event organisers, Prince Harry met former rugby players who have suffered life-changing injuries and are now being supported by the RFU.

He was seen joining former players as they tried various sports activities, including bowling and tennis.

Footage shows Prince Harry trying archery, jokingly aiming at the media's cameras in front of him.

The Duke of Sussex is a Patron of the RFU, after replacing his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II last year.


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