Smackdown: Google v. the rest of tech
Microsoft, Yahoo and others band against Google – using familar tactics.
By Jia Lynn Yang
With its friendly, helpful image and total dominance in search, Google (GOOG) makes it all look so easy. Meanwhile its enemies are just sweating harder to take it down.
There are reports today that Microsoft (MSFT), Yahoo (YHOO), Amazon (AMZN) and others are banding together to block a settlement Google made last fall with authors and publishers for its Book Search service—the same settlement that’s being scrutinized by the antitrust cops over at the Justice Department.
The Open Book Alliance, as the coalition is called, is simply the latest chapter in a war against Google that’s increasingly being fought in DC rather than California.
Witness what happened last fall when Google tried to seal a search advertising deal with Yahoo. For months, Microsoft campaigned mightily to block the deal by convincing the Senate Antitrust Committee to hold hearings and by enlisting the support of advertisers. In the end, the DOJ decided to file an antitrust case, and Google hastily pulled out of the deal.
And it’s not just Microsoft going toe to toe with Google in DC. Google’s widening reach has only lengthened its list of nemeses. Telco and cable companies don’t like Google’s support for net neutrality, a principle that broadly would prevent internet service providers from favoring certain web sites, no matter how much or what kind of data was being streamed. The telcos say that while they’re building out expensive broadband networks, Google gets a free ride.
Google also ran into opposition in DC recently when it tried to convince the Federal Communications Commission to allow unlicensed “white space” spectrum to be used for wireless broadband. The National Association of Broadcasters didn’t like that effort either. Google’s stance seems to be that its competitors are just fearful of fighting fair and square.
“The Google Books settlement is injecting more competition into the digital books space, so it’s understandable why our competitors might fight hard to prevent more competition,” says Gabriel Stricker, Google spokesperson, in a statement. And it’s not just Google’s search dominance that will be hard for Microsoft et al to topple. The company also boasts the world’s top brand, according to the market research firm Millward Brown—-meaning it’s an uphill battle for Google’s enemies to put a dent in the company’s glowing, benevolent image.
That’s not stopping them from going for the jugular though. In Washington, the knives are out.