Google Must Learn from Microsoft's EU Antitrust Battle: 10 Important Lessons

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-12-01 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Google is facing an EU antitrust probe over its dominant position in the search and advertising markets. Now Google will have to learn a thing or two from Microsoft's EU experience.

The European Union has launched an investigation into Google over concerns that the company might have used its dominant position in the search market to benefit its own operation and hurt its competition.

Some of the company's competitors, including Microsoft, say that Google is modifying its search results to ensure its own services rank higher than the competition's. The EU also plans on examining whether Google is using its advertising service improperly. 

For its part, Google admits to no wrongdoing and has made it clear that it doesn't believe that its practices are anti-competitive. However other U.S. technology giants have fared badly in earlier EU antitrust investigations. Microsoft and Intel have been paid huge fines based on EU findings that they had engaged in anticompetitive practices in their European markets.  

Now it's Google's turn to prove that it isn't abusing its market power in Europe

That might be more difficult for the search giant than some might think. It's a huge company that's extremely rich and successful around the globe. That fact alone makes Google an inviting target for EU regulators. As Microsoft's own battles with regulators have shown it's not easy to prove that your company hasn't engaged in anticompetitive practices.

That's precisely why Google should examine what Microsoft went through and adapt its strategy based on that. There is much that Google can learn from Microsoft's regulatory problems. Here's why.

 1. Don't necessarily accept the criticism 

When Microsoft's antitrust problems started with the U.S. back in the 1990s, Microsoft made it clear that it didn't believe it was doing anything wrong. And the company fought and fought until it couldn't fight anymore. There is some debate over whether or not that was a good strategy, but considering Microsoft is still a single company generating billions of dollars every quarter, it certainly seems to have worked. And it's something that Google should keep in mind. 

2. Expect more trouble 

Whenever a major company gets hit with inquiries by governing bodies, one thing is usually certain: it doesn't end with one complaint. Microsoft has been hit from all sides by several government bodies for its actions across several different markets. Google has been hit hard by government bodies, as well. The last thing the search giant should do is expect them to end anytime soon. It's simply a cost of being big and successful. 

3. Focus on consumer opinion 

Microsoft forgot about consumer opinion when it waged its battles against government regulators. It was so concerned with winning or at least dulling the blow of a loss, that it forgot that all those complaints about its operation were hurting its brand. Right now, Google is still highly respected around the world. It can't let that love slip away as it battles it out with the EU. 

4. Don't lose sight of the core product 

Microsoft started out as a software company and it's still successful as a software company. Although it was forced to weather storms along the way, it ensured that its core product maintained its position of dominance. That's a valuable lesson for Google to learn. Search is central to its success. No matter how strongly the critics go after it, Google cannot allow it to buckle under that pressure.


Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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