Of all the reasons that Google listed when it let slip this week that it will be hiring thousands to create an European research and development team as big as the one it has in the United States, it never mentioned that hiring in the EU would allow it to dodge some of the limitations it faces hiring foreign workers in the U.S.
Instead, Google focused on its concerns that it could be seen as an aggressive U.S. multinational, a legitimate concern in the week after rival Microsoft was hit with a $689 million fine by the EU for trust violations. Google is already being investigated by the EU (and the U.S.) for its planned $3.1 billion acquisition of the online ad company DoubleClick. The government is concerned that the acquisition would give the company undue control over online advertising.
"We are not seen correctly in Europe," Nelson Mattos, Google's new head of engineering in Europe told the FT Sept. 26. "My impression is that Google is seen as a big U.S. company that is here to make money.
"There is a lack of understanding of how we work. People don't understand the business model, the new computing environment and the employees in shorts."
Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research in Black Diamond, Wash., suspects that Google's intended European growth is largely a PR move.
"Google does not want to be perceived as an aggressive U.S. company that is taking market share from European companies. Microsoft has experienced a variety of defeats in the European marketplace, most notably the recent $600+ million judgment, and I think Google is taking some proactive steps to avoid the same fate," said Osterman.
However, Osterman noted, there may be other benefits as well.
"This may also be tied to the difficulty associated with bringing foreign nationals into the U.S. Google may be following Microsoft's lead in opening up a design center in Vancouver recently because of their inability to acquire H-1B visas for software developers."
Shortly after the defeat of the Immigration Reform Bill in July, which stood to ease limits on foreign workers in the U.S., Microsoft announced that it will be opening an R&D facility in Vancouver. A month later, it admitted that it was overwhelmed, and worn out, from the size of the applicant response.