Small producers of domestic software feel discrimination in mandatory preinstallation

Small producers of domestic software feel discrimination in mandatory preinstallation
Photo: Vasily Ivanov

Mandatory preinstallation of domestic software on smartphones, computers and smart TVs sold in Russia has been postponed again — from January to April 2021. As Realnoe Vremya found out, it is quite possible that another delay will be required, since not all manufacturers can have time to adjust their hardware to the requirement of the new bill, otherwise a number of devices will disappear from the market for a while. Moreover, experts doubt that this initiative will really support domestic producers of Russian software — at least, small developers, including from Tatarstan.

For different devices — different applications

The bill on the mandatory preinstallation of Russian applications on devices imported into the country covers smartphones, tablets, other wireless equipment with a touch screen, “two or more functions”, stationary computers, laptops, system units, as well as TVs with the Smart TV function.

Having bought any of the listed devices, in addition to the applications installed by default, the user will receive a set of domestic products, the number of which varies depending on the type of hardware.

For example, Russian browsers, search engines, social networks, instant messengers, email services, map and navigation services, voice assistants, news aggregators, antivirus programmes, and so on must be installed on smartphones and tablets.

For a PC, it will be mandatory to preinstall a domestic browser, office software and antivirus, for a Smart TV — the browser, search engine, social network and audio-visual service.

Among the antivirus systems — Kaspersky, office software — My Office. Photo:

Yandex, and Kaspersky — in priority

The ministry of finance of Russia has not yet approved the final list of applications from which equipment manufacturers will have to choose, however, there are preliminary data. For example, Yandex products are expectedly the leaders in the category of browsers, search engines, navigation systems and cloud services for data storage.

In the categories Email, News Aggregator, Social Networks — (ICQ messenger, VKontakte social network, OK Live streaming (Odnoklassniki social network project), Marusya news aggregator and voice assistant).

Among the antivirus systems — Kaspersky, office software — My Office. Also, the social service of public services and payment system Mir will be installed on electronic devices.

Let us note that at the initial stage, the possibility of preinstalling a domestic operating system on devices was also discussed (although it is not entirely clear which one), but later this idea was abandoned.

In an interview with the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, director of innovation division at Astra Linux Group (the developer of the domestic software, which our publication has already written about earlier) Roman Mylitsyn explained that “the issue of preinstallation of domestic operating systems is certainly more global and much more technologically complex, since it will require the rejection of all ecosystems associated with foreign operating systems”, respectively, such requirements at this stage “would definitely become excessive”.

“Small companies are in discriminatory position”

As specified in the ministry of finance of Russia, when compiling the register, preference will be given to programmes “with the largest number of unique users”, which raises serious questions from the expert community and market participants.

Realnoe Vremya asked the president of RUSSOFT Nonprofit Partnership (an industry association that participated in the work on the document), Valentina Makarova, what are the chances of the Tatarstan software manufacturers to get into the register, given the rather high entry threshold. And whether such conditions discriminate against small developers.

“You are absolutely right, so we, as an association, are preparing a letter to the ministry of communications so that they pay attention to this issue. Since they set the download limit at 500k, only companies that have been on the market for a long time can enter the register. New developers do not get into this register, that is, small companies are in a discriminatory position," the expert commented. “We have a register of domestic software, which everyone got into with great difficulty. Give hardware manufacturers the opportunity to choose which software they will download from this registry. The quantitative criterion significantly narrows the funnel for small companies.

The representative of RATEK, Anton Guskov, has a similar opinion.

“In fact, only the leaders can apply for the preintallation, since there are restrictions on the minimum number of downloads, and these are very large figures. Therefore, the support of small companies is out of the question. As a result, large corporations will simply have the opportunity to be installed on most devices without fail," the expert states.

As Nikolay Komlev, the director of the Association of Computer and Information Technology Enterprises (APKIT), chairperson of the Council of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the Development of Digital Economy, told our publication, “the PP RF 1867 was prepared without the participation of IT associations” — they were involved when when applications were already received and the submission period was already over.

“The APKIT and other IT associations are currently selecting proposals for finalising this resolution. We already have about 25 offers. For example, at the board meeting on 16 December, we discussed two such proposals:

  • To avoid the approach when they install only the chosen ones. Instead — under the auspices of the ministry of digital development, create a Russian app store and install only it. Then let the user choose whose programme to take from this store. Then developers, in particular, from Tatarstan, will have more chances.
  • Suggest using the entire registry of domestic software when creating a list of preinstalled programmes instead of creating a narrow list for preinstallation. Leave the choice to the hardware vendor or the user.

“If they do not have time to rebuild — they will not sell their equipment”

Preinstallation can be carried out by both the equipment manufacturers themselves and their authorised persons — suppliers or sellers of equipment. Instead of full software preinstallation, they can place an icon of the programme to download on the device screen or show the user a list of programmes available for installation when the device is turned on for the first time, “at the same time, there must be no possibility to skip the dialog box”.

Let us note that the bill on mandatory preinstallation of Russian apps on imported devices was to enter into force on 1 July of this year, but in the spring, the date was moved to 1 January 2021 due to the pandemic crisis. In December, another postponement followed — on April 1 of the following year. At the same time, many experts doubt that manufacturers will have enough time to update their equipment.

“For the manufacturer, this is an extra burden, difficult to implement technically, which requires at least six months from the date of approval of all regulatory documents. Of course, 3 months of postponement is better than 2. At the same time, for different product categories, manufacturers may need from 6 to 18 months. Again, 3 months is better than 2, but for a relatively painless transition, they need at least 6," says Anton Guskov.

When asked whether there will be problems with sales if there is no postponement, the expert answers: “I think so, because manufacturing companies are usually very law-abiding. If they do not have time to rebuild, then they simply will not sell their equipment.”

In turn, Nikolay Komlev adds that “by spring, probably not everyone will have time, but most will still do”. At the same time, the expert is not sure that any problems may arise in the market due to the lack of postponement of terms.

“It is unlikely that the consumer will be happy about this”

The president of RUSSOFT, Valentin Makarov, explained the need for the adoption of this bill. According to him, in this issue, user convenience and the alignment of the rights of domestic software manufacturers come first.

“Phones and computers were used to be fully loaded with imported software. To reach a Russian application, you need to be very tired of the already installed product or need something. If you already have a Russian app installed, you can immediately see whether you are interested in it or not. The user will have the opportunity to choose what he considers necessary, and not use something out of habit," the expert believes.

However, according to the representative of RATEK, Anton Guskov, the user is unlikely to be delighted with the innovations.

“If we talk about the user, then a huge number of applications are imposed on him (for smartphones alone — about 26). It is unlikely that the consumer will be happy about this. Moreover, according to surveys, the Russian user is quite active in installing or deleting applications himself. Thus, we do not see any advantages, neither for equipment manufacturers, nor for software developers, nor for users," Guskov concluded.

By Lina Sarimova
Analytics Tatarstan