Google makes Microsoft antitrust accusation

Search engine giant Google today instructed US antitrust authorities that Microsoft’s Vista operating system violates previous antitrust settlements by disadvantaging competitive software developers.

The accusation relates to Vista’s desktop search functions. In a five page white paper released today, Google claims that Microsoft has made it difficult to install third party desktop search functions and to disable its own indexing function, meaning that any third party search tool would impair the computer’s performance.

Microsoft has acknowledged that while it might not be easy to do these things, they are all possible.  But Brad Smith, Microsoft’s ever-present general counsel, said that the company is prepared to accommodate Google’s concerns. "We're prepared to make changes as long as they're within reason," he said.

Earlier in 2007, Microsoft made an accusation of its own after Google agreed to buy web advertising broker DoubleClick. Although it did not make an official complaint to the authorities, the company suggested that the combination of the two companies would be too powerful, making it difficult for any other online advertising providers.

The acquisition, Brad Smith said at the time, would “substantially reduce competition in the advertising market on the Web.”

“We’ve studied this closely, and their claims, as stated, are not true,” Google CEO Eric E. Schmidt replied.

Google has in the past two years begun to resemble the threat to Microsoft that many suspected it would be, having released free versions of desktop productivity applications that are in direct competition with Microsoft's Office tool set.

Google is one of very few organisations with the clout to even consider taking Microsoft on in the court rooms. However, as the concern surrounding its DoubleClick acqusition shows, the company is not beyond reproach itself.

And if the fight for the 21st century desktop becomes a antitrust war of attrition, Google might be advised to remember that Microsoft is a veteran of such disputes, and has deep enough pockets to fight every battle to the bitter end.

Further reading

Google presses EC for hardline stance against MicrosoftNovember 2006
Microsoft launches antitrust retaliationFebruary 2006

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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