Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
access, antitrust, eu, youtube

google, microsoft

Microsoft: Hey, If We Had To Go Through Europe's Crazy Antitrust Process, Why Shouldn't Google?

from the at-least-they-see-the-irony dept

I've suggested in the past that neither Microsoft nor Google should be pointing the antitrust/monopoly finger at each other. After all, both companies seem prone to getting accused of antitrust violations. Yet, as a competitive tool to whack at competitors, it's apparently way too tempting. Not long after Microsoft spent years defending itself against antitrust charges in the EU, it has now filed a complaint against Google in the EU, alleging antitrust violations. To be fair, the company is pretty upfront about how this might seem ironic:
There of course will be some who will point out the irony in todays filing. Having spent more than a decade wearing the shoe on the other foot with the European Commission, the filing of a formal antitrust complaint is not something we take lightly. This is the first time Microsoft Corporation has ever taken this step. More so than most, we recognize the importance of ensuring that competition laws remain balanced and that technology innovation moves forward.
To be fair, the specific antitrust concerns that Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith lays out against Google appear to be a bit more compelling than some of the previous attempts by Microsoft to make Google out to be a monopolist, such as silly claims about where companies appear in search results. Specifically, Microsoft highlights Google blocking access to certain YouTube data, so that only Google can provide good searches of YouTube videos, as well as blocking Microsoft's mobile platform from accessing more YouTube data, which is done by Android.
First, in 2006 Google acquired YouTube--and since then it has put in place a growing number of technical measures to restrict competing search engines from properly accessing it for their search results. Without proper access to YouTube, Bing and other search engines cannot stand with Google on an equal footing in returning search results with links to YouTube videos and that, of course, drives more users away from competitors and to Google.

Second, in 2010 and again more recently, Google blocked Microsoft's new Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube. Google has enabled its own Android phones to access YouTube so that users can search for video categories, find favorites, see ratings, and so forth in the rich user interfaces offered by those phones. It's done the same thing for the iPhones offered by Apple, which doesn't offer a competing search service.

Unfortunately, Google has refused to allow Microsoft's new Windows Phones to access this YouTube metadata in the same way that Android phones and iPhones do. As a result, Microsoft's YouTube "app" on Windows Phones is basically just a browser displaying YouTube's mobile Web site, without the rich functionality offered on competing phones. Microsoft is ready to release a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone. We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide.
While the full details aren't clear, and this is only one side, those do seem like valid concerns if it's true that Google is really limiting such access. The concern over antitrust is always in whether or not the company is abusing its position to hold back competition unfairly. I don't know if Microsoft has a case, and I'm especially skeptical of the EU's antitrust process, which seems more focused on punishing success than on making sure there's no real consumer harm. However, this is certainly going to be a case worth paying attention to over the next few years...

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  • identicon
    Bengie, 31 Mar 2011 @ 4:58am

    Hate to say it

    If Goolgle actually is going out of its way to block Windows phones, I could see an anti-trust/anti-competitive suit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bryan, 3 Apr 2011 @ 10:13am

      Re: Hate to say it

      Google makes the YouTube app for Android and iPhone, it does not give the access Microsoft wants to other 3rd parties. If Google doesn't want to make an app for Windows Phone then they are not compelled to. Microsoft needs to turn Windows Phone into an attractive enough platform that Google wants to make a YouTube app for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2011 @ 5:01am

    Will Google block Microsoft in Kansas where they just deployed their 1Gb internet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2011 @ 5:27am

    ""However, this is certainly going to be a case worth paying attention to over the next few years...""

    No, not really..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2011 @ 5:30am

    Wait... he says first time, but clearly there were previous attempts. Then he goes on rambling about Youtube... why bitch about Google? He should be complaining about Youtube, not its parent company.

    Boohoo poor Microsoft. Not like they didn't screw their users for years... and aren't still doing it. No pity for them. They always were the ruthless ones and now it's being done to them, they start crying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 31 Mar 2011 @ 5:52am

    Monopoly or not...

    If my understanding is correct, Google still makes 90 some percent of it's money from the advertisements in it's search. The simple way to fight Google, if they piss us off, is to just not use their search. That's a crap ton easier then not using what makes Microsoft money (Windows, Office). Hit them where it counts. I'm sure other video hosting sites will be glad to take Youtube's place.

    If what the people living in the glass house say is true, then it may be a valid reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    P3T3R5ON (profile), 31 Mar 2011 @ 6:07am

    Purchase vs Free

    Windows is not really a choice these days, nor was it when Microsoft had to go through anti-trust cases. Google is a choice, the internet currently has and did have a lot of search engines. The reason Google is popular is because it works and offers more then the rest.

    So no Google shouldn't have to go through the anti-trust bs because it's a choice to use them. Microsoft did because 70% of computers sold at that time had Windows on them. Not leaving many of us a choice.

    Google is awesome, stop bitching about their awesomeness.

    Google for World Dominator!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris in Utah (profile), 31 Mar 2011 @ 6:35am

    No... wait... comment!!

    "We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

    "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." by Albert Einstein.

    I saw the first on another blog on the issue that braught up the OS frag issue on the systems rather than the anti-trust and then I realized something putting these two together. See it yet?

    [fill in blank] proof jobs has been staring us in the face.. which brings me to my final PSA of the day.

    To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
    - George Orwell

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hmm (profile), 31 Mar 2011 @ 9:01am


    does ANYONE use bing anymore?

    since bing isn't really a search engine with its own "true" backend and is just basically an amalgamation of google and other engine searches, all nicely shuffled into a slightly different order it makes pretty much no sense to use it for anything........if Microsoft wants to access reams of video data all it has to do is create an ACTUAL DAMN SEARCH ENGINE and a competitor to youtube, thats friendlier and easier to use and thus would become more popular......

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hmm (profile), 31 Mar 2011 @ 9:05am


    if Bing isn't just a fake piece of crap that grabs (RIAA Robo-Editor - $1 per word!!!! BEEP) other peoples results processed on THEIR servers, then surely if google blocked them entirely, then Bing would continue to function pretty much as currently.

    What would in fact happen, is suddenly bing would have most of its search index "disappear" since its just using google results directly, and nothing of its own.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2011 @ 10:47am

    In all this My question is, What's stopping Microsoft from setting up it's own video site like Youtube?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 31 Mar 2011 @ 8:33pm

    It's not Just Youtube

    They also prevent certain mobile browsers, Opera, are forced to use a dated version of the search interface.

    Even the desktop version of Opera is prevented from using the same search features for no reason. If you tell Opera to pretend to be Firefox it works fine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, 1 Apr 2011 @ 8:57pm

    Microsoft accusing Google of antitrust violations

    If I remember right, there were several articles (including from Techdirt? I think so) about Microsoft excluding Google from some of the functions in Bing.
    How can someone defend M$ accusing Google of doing what M$ was already doing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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