If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Eric Schmidt should be blushing right now. Back in the nineties when Schmidt, Google’s recently demoted CEO, was an executive at Sun Microsystems, he helped the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft, leaving an empty space that Google was more than happy to fill. Now that Google is the “tech industry wunderkind that got too big for its britches,” says Politico, the company alleges that Microsoft is trying to do the same thing to them. It’s not hard to see how a company that dominates Internet search and online ads, and could soon dominate smartphone platforms (Android) and mobile ads (AdMob), and wants to buy the software that figures out the best fare and seat on an airline to put competitors out of business, looks like it’s playing with Monopoly money. But Google alleges that the only reason anyone cares is because Microsoft’s harem of consultants and lawyers keep whining about it to Washington.
“We try to create lots of new technologies for consumers, and the companies and industries that we disrupt sometimes try to seek recourse in Washington,” said Adam Kovacevich, a Google spokesman, who recently was detailed to deal solely with antitrust issues. “In particular, Microsoft and our large competitors have invested a lot in D.C. to stoke scrutiny of us. But our goal is to make sure that we can continue creating cool new things for consumers.”
Right, then once we’ve made that cool new thing indispensable, we charge other companies for access to those suckered-in consumers.
Google also alleges that Microsoft — and AT&T — don’t stop with lobbyists. They’re also behind sites like Googleopoly.net and Googlemonitor.com. Scott Cleland, the analyst who runs the sites, told Congress he consulted for Microsoft but says he’s just trying to protect the little guy. “It’s scary that the monopoly information access point of the world is going after voices of dissent,” he told Politico.
With antitrust investigations already underway in the E.U. and Texas, the DOJ’s public-interest groups are also looking into a sweeping antitrust probe. Then there’s the matter of Google’s other competitors.
TripAdvisor is part of a coalition trying to block Google’s purchase of ITA, the flight-software company. Yelp is complaining about Google Places. And telecom companies that Google once pissed off by advocating for net neutrality have also flipped Google’s script and are trying to push the company toward “search neutrality,” i.e. not shoving its own second-rate competition-crippling services to the top of your search results, something Google says can’t be achieved.
The real tragedy, aside from the corruption of our ability to find what we want on the Internet and the second coming of John D. Rockefeller, is that with Schmidt out of the spotlight after stepping down from CEO to executive chairman, there’s no one to issue thinly veiled threats to Microsoft with a dry delivery. Last year, when Mark Zuckerberg refused to bend to Google’s will, Schmidt said, “The best thing that would happen is for Facebook to open up its data. Failing that, there are other ways to get that information.” Just imagine what he’d say to Steve Ballmer.
Tech war: Google vs. Microsoft [Politico]