I can’t quite figure out why the Federal Trade Commission has decided to investigate Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s role on the boards of both Google and Apple.
Is the government truly trying to find a way to bring antitrust charges against Google? It wouldn’t be the first time, would it?
Or, is this simply the FTC "going through the motions" so as to appease those that feel Google’s too dominant, while using a platform–Section 8 of the Clayton Antitrust Act–that’s rarely enforced?
I’m leaning towards the latter, for a number of reasons.
First, Eric Schmidt was recently named to President’s Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Sure, Obama wants to send a message that there are no "free passes" in his administration, but forcing Schmidt off the Apple board is hardly a victory for those against corporate conspiracies.
Second, the overlap between Google and Apple is somewhat minor and certainly not in an area that warrants antitrust concerns. The two companies compete in the mobile space, but neither are monopolizing in this area–although both could be within the next 5 years. If Apple were a major player in the search space, then I could see the FTC’s motivation.
Lastly, if we’re to believe the New York Times, Section 8 is rarely actioned on by the government, so if this is a legitimate attempt to keep Google’s footprint contained, then it’s a poor one.
What do you think? Is the government sharpening its swords or toothpicks?