Both Microsoft And Google Are Probably Best Off Shutting Up About Monopolies

from the seriously,-keep-quiet dept

We found it somewhat ridiculous when Microsoft tried to play the antitrust card in complaining about Google's attempt to buy Doubleclick last year. However, it's almost as ridiculous for Google to now be playing the antitrust card against Microsoft for its effort to buy Yahoo. True, Microsoft actually is a convicted antitrust violator, but Google has clearly been beating Microsoft hands down in the internet search/advertising/portal game. In both cases, it's fairly silly, as it's obvious that there's a fair bit of competition going on in the space (and Google's own rise demonstrates how it's still possible for new entrants to rise up). It's no surprise that Google would prefer Microsoft doesn't end up buying Yahoo (even if the resulting integration mess might give Google a chance to distance its lead online), but having either side pull out claims of antitrust violations pointed at the other just seems pointless. About the only thing it's likely to do is come back to haunt them down the road, the next time either one is investigated for any kind of antitrust violations.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Steve R. (profile), Feb 4th, 2008 @ 7:21am

    Hypocrisy

    At the bottom - competition - GOOD.
    At the top - competition - BAD.

     

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    courtney benson, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 7:42am

    Sillyness and the big boys

    Mike - You've hit the nail on the head. The comments are nothing but PR and positioning.

     

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    KB, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 7:55am

    Bring it On!!!

    I hope MS does buy Yahoo! It will remove one more pretender to the Google throne when Microsoft arses it up completely.

    I do like some components of the YUI though so hopefully they don't Charlie around with that too much!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 8:08am

    Will it honestly make a difference?

    It seems to me that Google is at the top of the search engine game and unless *they* mess up, it's not going to change. Most people prefer Google over Yahoo, and no matter what Microsoft does to Yahoo as a whole, that's not going to change. Remember when Gmail came out with gigs of space to store emails, and then Yahoo tried to outdo them with a basic 2gb storage for their accounts? How many people do you know who went "wow that's a good deal, I'm going back to Yahoo"? No one, that's who.

    I don't know anyone who will stop using their search engine of choice, it's almost tradition.

     

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    Matt, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 8:30am

    Let em' screw it up.

    If Microsof does as good a job with Yahoo and they did with Vista, what's the worry?

     

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      Steve R. (profile), Feb 4th, 2008 @ 8:44am

      Re: Let em' screw it up.

      Actually, I was thinking of responding along this line. The New York Times has a good article on the concept that Microsoft has become a bloated bureaucracy and this acquisition will do nothing to resolve Microsoft's underlying incompetence.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re: Let em' screw it up.

        So bloated bureaucracies are incompetent, maybe thats whats wrong with our government.

         

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    Deirdre, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    Google as a Monopoly

    It's an interesting concept; let's come back and revisit it when we start to hear people complain about having to pay the "Google tax" on a new PC or that they can't unbundle Google Apps from their browser.

     

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    Ken Hanscom, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 8:42am

    Reminds me a lot of....

    Oracle vs. Peoplesoft. I think the bottom line is that this will happen. The real question is will this leave Google in a more dominant position? I am sure their desire is to drag out the process and create more uncertainty.

     

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    Triatomic Tortoise, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 8:43am

    Bunch of Losers

    Here you go. Google is finally threatened on it's monopoly on internet search. Now they are inciting loser linux community to sue MS. EU used to traditionally play that role to make some quick money off MS.

    Microsoft may have taken "good" business decisions in the past to monopolize the market to their advantage. However, this one on searches is silly - that too from Google. Give me a break!

     

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      Jon, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 2:50pm

      Re: Bunch of Losers

      "Now they are inciting loser linux community to sue MS."

      If you want your comments to be taken seriously, you should avoid making derogatory statements.

      Just my $0.02. Take it or leave it.

       

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    Sillyme, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 9:23am

    I thought a monopoly was when there was only one competitor in a business arena, and there are no alternatives?
    I just used altavista...didn't appear to be google. I think microsoft already has some goofy search engine.
    Can someone explain how google has a monopoly?

     

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      atomatom, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      Google DOESN'T have a monopoly, but neither does Microsoft, and yet Google, with a majority share in the search market, is on the edge of accusing them of trying to gain one.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 9:50am

      Re:

      Google doesn't have an actual monopoly but a lot of people argue that effectively, they have one, since pretty much everyone with search engine needs will use google.

       

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      chad, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 10:02am

      Re:

      haha Altavista... owned by: Yahoo! They got it when they bought overature, who had bought it from HP to get an actual search presence (and force a Yahoo buy-out), who acquired it with their purchase of Compaq, who acquired it with their purchase of Digital, who made it as a pet project.

       

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    km, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 9:49am

    =: one for all :=

    +: monopoly means one for all :+ //km:
    ,: rarely is this good :,
    ,: often it can benefit :,
    ,: but the benefits are never worth it :,
    ,::,
    ,: monopolies cause de facto standards :,
    ,: but open platforms are better for this :,
    ,: de facto standarsd are usually biased :,
    ,: toward the company that creates them :,
    ,::,
    ,: a company which has a monopoly is, itself, a kind of de facto standard :,
    ,: because its services are de facto standards :,
    ,: the web was meant to be open :,
    ,: and open it shall remain :,
    ,::,
    ,: tiers? :,
    ,: structure? :,
    ,: over my dead child processes :,
    -: --open-minded :- //:km

     

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    His Shadow, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 9:50am

    What?

    How in any stretch of the imagination is Google, a monopoly created on merit, unable to throw stones at Microsoft, a convicted monopolist which continues to abuse it's dominant position? Where and when has anyone been forced in any way, shape or form been forced to use Google, as opposed to the zero choice available to PC buyers for almost 15 years?

    Monopolies are not bad. It's the abuse of monopolies that is bad, and Microsoft is second to none in it's abuse of consumers.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 4th, 2008 @ 10:05am

    No Monopoly In Search

    Guys

    Google has nothing like a monopoly. Even if they had 98% of searches I would say this. This is because, currently, you can change your preferred search engine as easily as you can change your socks. There is nothing forcing people to stick with Google.

    Poster #4 says, "I don't know anyone who will stop using their search engine of choice, it's almost tradition." Duh. Who did you use in 1998? Who were you using in 2001? For most people, those are two different search engines. Altavista, Excite, Infoseek, Yahoo...all lost their customers to the Google, because the Google was better. No stickiness, no loyalty, no apologies. Bye Bye Yahoo, I'm off to Google for my next click.

    It's so easy to change your home page, your toolbar, the URL you type. Google remains dominant because of a few things: brand, constant innovation, not sucking, top quality search results, good UI. Let's contrast this:

    Ebay: the reason eBay IS a monopoly is because it has all the market power. Sellers and buyers alike cannot leave eBay even if they don't like it. That's because if you're a seller, you need to go to eBay because that's where the buyers are. If you're a buyer you need to go to eBay because that's where the sellers are. It's a natural monopoly, a winner take all market, whatever you want to call it, but it's hard to leave. Google is nothing like this.

    MSFT Office: the economic engine of the company. Want to share a document with a colleague? You'd better be an office user. Want to use advanced features like "track changes"? Better use office. Want to hire staff and have them immediately productive at your workplace? Better provide them with the tools they know...Office. This productivity suite has tremendous lock in, and monopoly power. Barriers to entry for competitors are huge. Does Google have anything like this?

    MS Windows: Want your PC to work on the company network? Seamlessly integrate with the Exchange server? Want to use the same file formats as 85% of everyone else? Want to be able to use the thousands of software titles produced by the Independent software community? Want to be able to use the most hardware, with drivers that work out of the box? Then you'd better use Windows. This platform is exceptionally sticky, and hard to leave. Sure, people sing the praises of the MacOS and Linux when they leave, but there is also a high price to pay in terms of compatibility and driver headaches. Does Google have anything like this?

    MSO-Telcos: these two types of companies have cables buried in the ground, over which they can provide broadband, TV, and telephone service. Some of them paid off the price of burying their copper decades ago, yet they still can extract healthy profits from it. Fair enough. But how can any new entrant compete with a company that has been given rights of way down every street in the region? That has copper or cable buried throughout a town? The barrier to entry has so far proven insurmountable. If you did succeed, don't you think you'd have some predatory pricing to contend with? Incumbents could drop their prices to almost nothing to squeeze new entrants out of the business. So, can Google do anything like that?

    Google is very much NOT a monopoly. That's one of the most interesting things about this company to me. It's that, despite the fact that their valuation is astronomical, despite the fact that they have half a billion users, despite the fact that most of us use and love Google's services, there is still very little "lock in" holding me to Google if something better comes along. Think of how easy it would be for you to change cable companies, or grocery stores, or your car. Every one of those would involve some legwork to switch providers. But switching from Google to the next big thing would be as easy as clicking on a different link.

    Sometime in the future, Google might have some monopoly power. They should be thinking of ways of locking customers in (scary). Toolbars are a small attempt. Office suites also are a small advance. But for now, it looks more like their continued success will rely on constant innovation and quality. Those are the hallmarks of competition, not monopoly.

    Having a dominant player need to compete instead of sitting on monopolistic laurels is like a breath of fresh air.

     

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      Nicely Stated, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 10:20am

      Re: No Monopoly In Search

      Nicely stated. A monopoly occurs when the monopolist can block other entrants to the market. Google clearly can't and doesn't do that. It is a market leader but that leadership won't hold if it doesn't continually deliver a superior product.

      That being said, I think Google is throwing up red herrings for no other reason than to drive up costs to M$. I see this as a tit-for-tat volley for M$ protesting Google's acquisition of Double-click.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Feb 4th, 2008 @ 11:04am

      Re: No Monopoly In Search

      Well done, Derek. I came here to make the same point, and you did it well. The facts are these:

      Microsoft achieved its monopoly position on the desktop and internet browsing platforms by underhanded and opportunistic practices. They got their monopoly on the OS market by first re-branding someone else's product (MS-DOS). They deliberately introduced fake or unnecessary errors that forced people to switch to MS products to use Windows (look up DR-DOS) or to use MS Office instead of competitors (look at the deliberately introduced WordPerfect compatibility issues). They leveraged this ill-gotten monopoly illegally to gain ground in the browser market among others.

      Google, on the other hand, gained its dominant position through having a good product. In a crowded search engine market dominated by Altavista and Yahoo, Google took the market share by having a much better product, not by coercion, buying out competition or leveraging financial muscle. They've branched out into other areas for sure, and I'm sure they're also not lily-white in reality.

      Here's the thing though. Microsoft's business traditionally depends on locking you into their products. They force upgrades whenever possible, created de-facto standards (for example, HTML and office documents) that prevent level competition - for example, many peoples' main reason for not moving to OpenOffice is that they haven't managed to reverse-engineer .xls formats properly yet.

      Google's business is built on the web. There's no real lock in for most users. Don't like Google's seach? Go to a different search engine - easy as typing www.msn.com or www.ask.com or whatever. Don't like Google Earth? Use MSN's tool. Don't like Picasa? Use a different program, feel free to take your photos with you... This is NOT a monopoly situation. If people feel trapped with Google, it's because of habit or market forces, not vendor lock-in.

      One company has a history of working hard to convince you that you should stay with them. The other has a history of dirty tricks to force you to stay whether you like it or not. Guess which one most people actually trust?

       

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    hybrid, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 10:17am

    ms vs goog

    for 1, double-click and yahoo are not on the same lvl. google's acquisition of double-click was for expansion of services etc, where as ms taking over yahoo can be seen as taking out a competitor. yes yahoo could probably help ms in creating better services but come on now...ms

     

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    4-80-sicks, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 11:25am

    In the NY Times article, Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s senior vice president for strategic partnership, says, [This] “will be good for consumers who want another search engine, Web publishers who want another ad placement service, and syndicated advertisers” — who also want a choice other than Google.

    Hilarious. Turning two into one gives another option now?

     

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    Victor Teasley, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 12:41pm

    Zune, Internet Explorer, Xbox, Windows, Word, Hotmail... and that's just a few.

    It seems like Microsoft has a very strong record of capitalizing on the innovation of others.

    They also use their monopoly on the operating system side in sneaky ways- like the new windows live search tab that comes embedded with the new Internet Explorer. Sure you can change it, but it still has Live search there as default. How many computer illiterate people do you think will just leave it there?

    Or making their documents a pain in the ass to use with other programs (open office)

    And people have mentioned that I don't have to pay Google a dime, yet when anyone buys a computer microsoft gets a cut.

    I've used numerous search engines over the years, moving on every time I found something that worked better for my particular needs.

    1994 -Webcrawler
    1996 -AltaVista
    1998 -Yahoo
    2001 to present -Google

    Why am I still with Google? Do they make it so if I visit another search engine do I get compatibility issues? Did they push their software on me or make it impractical to uninstall? Do I have to pay them every time there's a new version?

    I could go on, but my ADD meds are wearing off...

     

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    ben nguyen, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 1:32pm

    First of all, Google doesn't exert tactics to be monopolistic. People *choose* to use Google which is quite different from forcing companies to bundle their software like MS.

    Second, Google has never asked a cent to use their software/services, on the contrary, they've purchased previously pay-software and opened it up, and made it free for anyone to use.

     

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    Mojo, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 3:23pm

    Google is champ because they've kept their home page simple and to the point; it's STILL just a search box.

    Meanwhile, Yahoo has become identical to AOL's home page - it's cluttered with ads, useless, fluffy content and is trying to be everything to everyone; in essense, it has lost it's identity as a search engine because they have completely diluted it with nonsense.

    Google.com is still only a search engine. People LIKE that simple page that isn't trying to sell you anything.

    Of course, the irony is that Google has made more with advertising than anyone else on the web; they just had a smarter, more user-friendly approach.

     

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    Rory, Feb 5th, 2008 @ 11:43am

    monopoly

    Microsoft was the victim of the Clinton administrations attempts to look like a monopoly buster. Nothing Microsoft did fit the true definition of a monopoly.

    I'd say apple is much closer to breaking the law by requiring a specific service provider for their iphone. But thankfully we now have an administration that doesn't worry about breaking up pseudo-monopolies that don't actually harm the public.

    Now if anyone could break up that clearchanel monopoly pushing crap music down my throat I'd gladly elect their party time and time again.

     

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    t, Feb 5th, 2008 @ 12:21pm

    convicted monopolist

    Microsoft is not a convicted monopolist as you incorrectly state. The DOJ lawsuit was a civil case.

    Most of these monopoly cries are silly. Only the government has the ability to create true monopolies, since there is always a way for the market to create competitors.

    Even in the MS case, the market was defined narrowly to exclude nearly all operating systems except windows. Duh!

    Thinking people years from now will shake their heads in amazement of how confused our society was with the word monopoly.

     

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