Thursday, 03 January 2013 18:31

Pot calls kettle black – Microsoft says Google “threatens competition”

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Have they no shame? Microsoft, long the target of investigations into its shady, monopolistic and unethical business practices, has accused Google of much the same.

Dave Heiner, Microsoft’s head lawyer (Vice President and Deputy General Counsel) has written a blog in which he accuses Google of threatening the future of competition.

Microsoft settled a long-running case with the US Department of Justice in 2001 about its bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows, forcing competitors such as Netscape out of the market. It has been fined over $1 billion in various anticompetitive judgements by the European Commission over the past decade. It fought the cases strongly and never admitted wrongdoing.

Nowadays Microsoft is not the dominant company it once was, and it is accusing Google of the same sort of dodgy practices that it itself perpetrated in the past. How the wheel has turned. Microsoft’s complaints centre on Google making it hard for Microsoft to develop a YouTube app for Microsoft Windows Phone. Boo hoo.

“The future of competition in search is at stake,” said Heiner in his blog, which is a model of aggrieved self-righteousness. ”This is important not just for Microsoft, but for the thousands of smaller companies whose businesses depend on a competitive search marketplace.”

Yes, Microsoft has always had their interests at heart.

“The European Commission has stated publicly that Google must address four areas of concern regarding its business practices, or else it will face enforcement action. You might think that Google would be on its best behaviour given it’s under the bright lights of regulatory scrutiny, particularly as it seeks to assure antitrust enforcers that it can be trusted on the basis of non-binding assurances that it will not abuse its market position further.

“We continue to be dogged by an issue we had hoped would be resolved by now: Google continues to prevent Microsoft from offering consumers a fully featured YouTube app for the Windows Phone.

These restrictions are just one example of where we believe Google is impeding competition in the marketplace.

“Google dismisses these concerns as little more than sour grapes by one of its competitors. But the reality is that consumers and competitors alike are getting ‘scroogled’ across the Web on a daily basis from this type of misconduct. Hopefully, Google will wake up to a New Year with a resolution to change its ways and start to conform with the antitrust laws. If not, then 2013 hopefully will be the year when antitrust enforcers display the resolve that Google continues to lack.”

Yeah, right. Just as Microsoft was so cooperative with the US Department of Justice in 2001 and the European Union more recently. Any company will use its market position to its advantage, and it may be that Microsoft has a point.

But it’s a bit rich hearing Microsoft accusing others of anticompetitive practices. “Gee,” said the pot to the kettle. “You’re as black as black.”

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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