Obama's Googleside Chat Doesn't Dull EU Pains

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2007-11-15 Print this article Print


Nothing like hearing the soothing tones of a presidential hopeful to comfort your masses.

Google employees were treated to a chat by Democrat Barack Obama Wednesday in the cafeteria at the search giant's Mountain View, Calif., home base, according to a Reuters report.

The report made a point of portraying both Obama and Google as young and fresh. Surely, aligning oneself with the hottest high-tech company on the planet can only endear oneself to the younger masses who are scorned for being absent at the polls during crunch time.

Obama is no novelty; no less than six presidential candidates have graced the swell halls at Google HQ, including Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Republican John McCain.

Coincidentally, the appearance came one day after the European Commission delivered foreboding but not unexpected news: It has decided to open an in-depth investigation into Google's $3.1 billion bid for online ad provider DoubleClick.

"The Commission's initial market investigation indicated that the proposed merger would raise competition concerns in the markets for intermediation and ad serving in online advertising," the EC said in a statement.

What this means is the commission has 90 working days (that's until April 2008 for those keeping score) to make a final decision on whether the deal would stifle competition in Europe.

Interestingly, the EC also made it clear that just because it has triggered an "in-depth inquiry," it does not mean it is already planning to quash the deal.

Well, that's certainly good news for Google, right?

No, this means that Google has to abandon hope of completing the deal until at least the summer of 2008; the company had hoped to have sewn up the purchase this year, positioning it for even greater ad growth in 2008 once the assets were rationalized.

Moreover, we don't even know whether the Federal Trade Commission will stump or green-light this deal. Remember, the FTC met with Google in September on this but did not really tip its hand as to which way it was leaning. I doubt the FTC will reach a decision before the new year.

These delays can take the pep out of Google's holiday cheer. The intense scrutiny means we can officially welcome Google, with its $200 billion market capitalization, into the select group of large, so-called greedy U.S. enterprises.

Microsoft and Oracle officials, no stranger to antitrust scrutiny, must feel good that Google is not being allowed to head to the end zone without some stiff arms from regulators.

The Reuters story on Obama's visit with Googlers didn't offer any cogent news, but there was this young and fresh vibe going on. Check out this extremely telling quote from an employee in Google's ad department.

Asked for her opinion about the presidential candidate's appearance, Nicole Resz said, "He's fresh, he's new, there's something about him that's Google-like."

A Googler admitting that Google is fresh and new? The company's executives have gone to great lengths to evoke this feeling from consumers, pundits and industry analysts. But to hear it straight from a Googler's mouth is revealing.

Whether it's the hosted Google Apps or Google Maps, the company does show that it does things a bit differently than Microsoft, Oracle and other old-line software makers.

But when it comes to attracting the attention of antitrust regulators, Google is proving to be as old-fashioned and timeless as its more traditional rivals.

How will the EC and the FTC vote on Google-DoubleClick? The deal doesn't have anywhere near the importance of the presidential elections, but the voting bears watching next year.

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