Google Dodges FTC Antitrust Charges, Will Change Business Practices

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-01-03 Print this article Print

Several IT analysts say the FTC probe's conclusions are sensible. Dan Maycock, an IT analyst with Slalom Consulting, called the case "Google's coming of age."

"You get a company starting up in Silicon Valley, and it grows up and prospers, but to be a real company in America, you have to eventually have your day in court," Maycock told eWEEK. "So Google gets to a point where they are innovating, and at the same time being potentially anticompetitive and like any large company, they eventually have their day."

It's all part of Google's journey in the last few years, he said. Google bought Motorola Mobility, then made a lot of noise with Google AdWords and the company is making a lot of money and keeping their shareholders happy, said Maycock. "So the government steps in, and now they're going to be heavily regulated."

This is what happens with large, successful companies that have made it, he said. "I don't think this is super unusual, given the influence Google has. I expect similar things for Facebook someday, too, if they continue to grow."

It's all part of a system of checks and balances that come into place for many American businesses, said Maycock.  "It's not a bad thing. This is the system really saying, 'Hey, you're very successful. You're very big.' So the government steps in so you don't become too successful and not allow competition. Now you have a new set of rules to play by, and I think it's totally fair what the FTC is asking them to do. It just keeps them from being monopolistic."

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, said he is "somewhat surprised" that the FTC was so willing to work with Google to come to an enforceable agreement rather than a full-bore FTC action.

"In previous instances related to antitrust, in the case of say Microsoft, we saw the FTC act in a more proactive, punitive manner," King told eWEEK. "Since this is coming from a [presidential] administration that is extremely friendly to government regulation of business, there may have been less concern about alleged violations than some of Google's competitors have been alleging all along."

Since the FTC is allowing Google to voluntarily implement some of these things on their own rather than under restrictions, King said it "suggests a problem that could be repaired with a carpenter's hammer rather than with a wrecking ball."

At the same time, he said, it's ironic that one of the loudest critics of the expected lighter FTC action against Google has been Microsoft, which itself was declared a monopolist in earlier cases by the U.S. government.

"Irony is something I've learned to expect from Microsoft over the years," he said.


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