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The beginning of the end of Google?

The beginning of the end of Google?

Posted on 21st October 2020

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Hands up who doesn’t Google stuff? No, didn’t think so. No-one. OK, one at the back who uses Bing. You’d think Google has a monopoly or something…

Well, as it happens, that’s seemingly what the US government thinks. And big as Google, Facebook et al are, they ain’t as big and powerful as the US government.

Back in 2001, we witnessed “United States v. Microsoft Corp,” when an antitrust lawsuit suggested that Microsoft had abused its alleged monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of operating system and web brower integration. The issue was whether Microsoft was allowed to bundle its flagship Internet explorer (IE) web browsers software with its Windows Operating system. Although the government won its case and Microsoft, obviously, had to abide by the judgement, the result was thought by some to be a mere slap on the wrist. 

In the current case, the complaint is that Google is paying $multi-millions to Apple and Samsung so that the latter use Google as the default search engine on their devices. The charges brought yesterday by the US Department of Justice, call for “structural relief” as a potential remedy to the company’s behaviour: in other words, they would force Google to sell off parts of its business. There are loud echoes of what happened to Standard Oil in the most famous antitrust action to date, and no less important should this come to pass.

Naturally, Google has said it will aggressively fight the claims, describing the landmark complaint as “dubious” and insisting that its exclusivity deals with manufacturers, telecoms companies and rival web browsers are all a normal part of business. 

The expectation in the States is that this legal battle will last for years and that Google will try to use delaying tactics similar to those deployed by Microsoft 20 years ago. However, they may have to fight this battle on a number of fronts, as separate antitrust charges are expected to be filed by a group of US states in coming weeks, which are expected to focus on Google’s digital advertising technology. 

Michael Phair, Operations Director, Be-IT

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