Google Fires FUD Volley at Microsoft Over Yahoo Bid

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-02-03 Print this article Print


Google came out swinging Sunday with its opposition to Microsoft's overgenerous $44.6 billion offer for Yahoo, a sinister piece of Orwellian FUD designed to make us all believe that Microsoft is trying to control the Internet the way it does desktop software.

"Microsoft's hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions," wrote David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer for Google. "Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC?"

Consider this payback for when Microsoft claimed that a Google-DoubleClick merger would reduce competition in the online advertising business and put too much consumer data into the hands of Google.

Here we have the same FUD Oracle and every other Microsoft opponent has used to sully the software giant: that Microsoft is fond of establishing proprietary monopolies leveraging its dominance into new markets.

The market Drummond is referring to is the Internet market, where Google roams freely with little opposition in search and online advertising.

Drummond adds: "Could the acquisition of Yahoo! allow Microsoft--despite its legacy of serious legal and regulatory offenses--to extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet?"

Specifically, Drummond said adding Yahoo would give Microsoft too many instant messaging and Webmail accounts, allowing Microsoft to create a PC software monopoly that would keep consumers from accessing competitors' e-mail, IM, and Web-based services.

That is a scary piece of FUD, suggesting that, as it controls desktop software, Microsoft could add new controls to Yahoo's various user communities in Flickr, Yahoo Mail, and so on. In effect, Google suggests Microsoft would cultivate a Facebookian world of walled gardens.  

Drummond may be going overboard as companies tend to do once they've reached their FUD quota. Last time I checked, neither Microsoft nor Yahoo have a whole lot of influence on the Web.

Yahoo used to be the place to go, but then Google came along, surpassing Yahoo, AOL and everyone else with search, ads and other software services.

Microsoft would love to be part of that conversation, but I don't see Yahoo, whose brand is tanking even if it's not in the toilet, helping the software maker's cause much.

The tenor of Drummond's post also suggests that Google itself is not a monopolistic threat. Google's 60 percent share in search is not quite like Microsoft's 90 percent-plus share of office productivity software, but it's the closest thing to a monopoly the search market has.

Net-net, this post from Google is a bit disappointing because it's the wrong kind of FUD. Google should have attacked the operational concerns of combining so many overlapping and disparate products.

I really expected Google to say something along the lines of: "The rationalization of so many disparate product lines will be a disaster for the company, tragically hampering the Internet experience for millions of users."

At least, that's what I would have said. Well, I guess I did, sort of, here.

Ironically, Drummond's suggestion that Microsoft could use Yahoo to keep users from visiting other Web sites comes two days after Google launched its Social Graph API.

This code enables users to take the information they put in social networks and other Web sites so users don't have to keep entering in the same data everywhere they go.

In short, the API is geared to help users move data freely around the Web, which is what Microsoft could use Yahoo to prevent, if you believe Drummond.


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