Microsoft's Google antitrust filing with the European Commission is just another round in the long-running, multifront battle with the search engine giant.
Microsoft this week filed an antitrust complaint against
arch-rival Google with the European Commission, a regulatory body that's hit
Redmond executives with monopoly investigations in the past.
"There of course will be some who will point out the irony
in today's filing," Brad Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general
counsel, wrote in a March 30 statement posted on the Microsoft
on the Issues
blog. "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."
Possible ironies aside, Microsoft is apparently intent on
showing Google as the 800-pound gorilla currently tossing its competitors
around the marketplace like so many rag dolls. "We're concerned by a broadening
pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive
alternative," Smith wrote. "We've therefore decided to join a large and growing
number of companies registering their concerns about the European search
His posting also argued that Google restricts other search
engines from property cataloging YouTube videos in search results, that it prevents
those YouTube videos from running well on Windows Phones, that it blocks access
to book publishers' content, that it restricts advertisers' access to their own
In addition, Smith accused Google of contractually blocking
"leading Websites in Europe from distributing competing search boxes" and
discriminating against competitors by raising the price for prominent placement
in Google advertisements.
As earlier alluded, the European Commission, in the
not-so-distant past, pursued Microsoft over supposed anti-competitive practices
related to Internet Explorer. Pressured by the body, Microsoft eventually
released a "Web browser choice screen" designed to give Windows users in the
European Union a selection of browsers other than IE.
Discussions between the European Commission and Microsoft
became so long-winded, in fact, that CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly met with the
body's outgoing competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, in an attempt to settle
remaining issues before she stepped down from office at the end of 2009.
"We're not surprised that Microsoft has done this, since one
of their subsidiaries was one of the original complainants," a Google
spokesperson wrote in a March 31 e-mail to eWEEK. "For our part, we continue to
discuss the case with the European Commission and we're happy to explain to
anyone how our business works."
By "one of their subsidiaries," the spokesperson is
referring to Ciao! from Bing
online-community portal aimed at a handful of Western European markets. Back
in February 2010
, the European Commission notified Google that Ciao, along
with U.K. price-comparison Website Foundem
and French legal search engine ejustice.fr
had filed complaints about Google's effect on European search-engine
competition. Foundem is a member of ICOMP, a lobbying group sponsored by Microsoft
From a broader perspective, Microsoft's newest antitrust
filing suggests that its competition with Google, while already fierce, can raise
itself to another level. Already, Microsoft has poured hundreds of millions of
dollars into its Bing
search engine, on top
of partnering with Yahoo to power its backend search, in order to hack away at
Google's overriding market presence. Microsoft is trying something similar with
its recently-launched Windows Phone 7 platform, which it hopes will someday
prove a viable competitor to both Apple's iPhone and the growing family of
Google Android devices.
Legal maneuvers are another front in that broad-based
competition. Microsoft has already taken legal swipes at companies whose
Android-based products allegedly violate its patents, most
recently Barnes & Noble
. An antitrust filing? Just another arrow in the