In a somewhat ironic twist, Microsoft said this evening it will file a formal complaint against Google tomorrow with European antitrust regulators.
Microsoft, which itself has been the subject of several antitrust probes in the United States and abroad, argues Google is engaging in anticompetitive behavior in search, online advertising, and smartphone software, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith wrote in a blog explaining the action.
The interesting thing is that this action will go beyond Google’s search business as Microsoft feels that Google is preventing them from competing with Windows Phone because certain permissions for YouTube to work like it does on Android and iPhone devices are not in place. Honestly, what sense would it make for Google to make YouTube less accessible on Windows Phone? I’m just asking because it seems silly to imagine a plot to keep the 10 Windows Phone users from getting to ther favorite YouTube videos and ads.
Microsoft’s blog post says a little more and starts off with a ridiculous attempt to sound like they respect Google.
At the outset, we should be among the first to compliment Google for its genuine innovations, of which there have been many over the past decade. As the only viable search competitor to Google in the U.S. and much of Europe, we respect their engineering prowess and competitive drive. Google has done much to advance its laudable mission to “organize the world’s information,” but we’re concerned by a broadening pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative.
OK, this ‘statement’ is a doozy. Mr. Smith seems to be confused because the reality is that Google has this much market share because Bing hasn’t been a truly viable competitor anywhere……yet. He writes this as if Google and Bing are neck and neck. Apparently Mr. Smith and Microsoft have active imaginations.
In the end, this is just Microsoft’s way of trying to throw a stick in Google’s spokes. What will determine how much trouble this creates is just how intense the European Commission’s scrutiny becomes and how much they want to get in Google’s way. Unfortunately for Google, the system in Europe seems to give governing bodies an inordinate amount of power in the name of protecting the poor Europeans who can’t think for themselves (which I say in jest because I know that most people in Europe, like here in the US, are more than capable of making their own decisions without anyone telling them what they should decide).
One last thought on this. The Microsoft post goes on to say
At Microsoft we’ve shown that we’re prepared to work hard and invest literally billions of dollars annually to offer Bing, a search service that many now regard as the most innovative available. But, hard work and innovation need a fair and competitive marketplace in which to thrive, and twice the Department of Justice has intervened to thwart Google’s unlawful conduct from impeding fair competition.
That’s all well and good but the “build it, do a big advertising push and they will come” approach which Bing has been using is much more to blame for Bing’s difficulties in the search space. There are many, many, many holes in Google’s approach to search and the marketplace that would allow for Bing to make real inroads against Google but at least until now they haven’t even tried to truly outsmart Google. They have tried to out engineer and out advertise them which is not how they will win.
Until Bing and Microsoft see that there is nothing that Google is doing to ‘block’ their competitive opportunity but rather they are choosing to go through all the wrong rabbit holes, this competitive situation will remain the same. You can be as innovative as you want and get all the platitudes from the high tech ‘in-crowd’ but unless you take the message to the street and work with the majority of people who just want to search for something and get a good answer, they will still do what they have become accustomed to which is to use Google almost instinctually.
So we start another legal wrestling match to work out something that is likely more perception than reality and there will be plenty of wasted cycles following this whole process. In the end, if Microsoft needs to play legal games to slow down Google rather than just out doing them in the many areas where Google obviously fails then maybe Bing and Microsoft aren’t the real competitors to Google after all. Legal actions in business are only as effective as the group in office that supports them and they can change as quickly as they are established.
Does that sound like a business plan to you?