The Google of Russia Escalates Its War on Android

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

The Yandex NV company headquarters in Moscow, Russia, in 2011. Yandex's Web search dominates in Russia. Close

The Yandex NV company headquarters in Moscow, Russia, in 2011. Yandex's Web search dominates in Russia.

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Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

The Yandex NV company headquarters in Moscow, Russia, in 2011. Yandex's Web search dominates in Russia.

In Russia, people don't Google it -- they Yandex it. And as users there increasingly switch to mobile devices to surf the Web, the country's local search engine wants to make sure it holds onto its lead in an Android world.

That's why the company has an agreement with Google's foe, Microsoft, to make Yandex's search the default app on Windows Phones sold in Russia. Yandex struck similar deals with Samsung for models based on the South Korean company's Bada operating system.

In its latest move to keep Android at bay, the Russian company said smartphone makers Huawei and Explay will pre-install Yandex's services for search, browsing, maps and music, as well as its app store, on devices sold in the country. Beginning next month, Russians can get these Android phones without Google's apps as the default programs.

Sales of Android phones in Russia surpassed 14 million units last year and make up almost 80 percent of the country's smartphone market, according to research firm IDC. Huawei and Explay account for about 6 percent of smartphone sales in Russia.

Yandex's Web search dominates in Russia, where 62 percent of those online use the service, compared with 27 percent for Google. Given those numbers, many users in the country may be baffled when a new Android smartphone prompts them for their Gmail account and Google password to get started.

The Android platform is open source software that phone makers can use for free. However, competitors have complained that Google's mobile apps have an unfair advantage over rival programs when it comes to pre-installation. The European Commission began looking into Android licensing deals last year, according to the Financial Times, and the examination continues.

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