Microsoft Publicly Takes Google to Task Over Antitrust Investigations

Microsoft (MSFT) is publicly taking Google (GOOG) to task for failing to adequately respond to a recent European Commission investigation into whether its search engine market share and its practices are anti-competitive.

In a blog posted on Microsoft's website, deputy general counsel Dave Heiner wrote that Google is trying to place the blame on other companies rather than take responsibility for its own actions. "Google's public response to this growing regulatory concern has been to point elsewhere -- at Microsoft," Heiner wrote.

Among Heiner's criticisms of Google's practices was its proposed settlement with U.S.-based authors and publishers over the digitization of millions of books. "One big problem is that Google would help itself to essentially exclusive rights to tens of millions of books -- effectively locking out everyone else," he wrote. Such a move, he said, would be harmful to publishers, advertisers and competitors in search and online advertising.

Heiner also wrote about Microsoft's own meetings with antitrust regulators from the European Commission and Department of Justice regarding its proposed search partnership with Yahoo (YHOO). "As you might expect , the competition officials asked us a lot of questions about competition with Google -- since that is the focus of the partnership."

For Microsoft's Bing search engine to effectively compete against Google -- which Heiner says boasts up to a 95% share in search and search advertising in many European countries -- it will need to greatly increase its overall traffic volume. Microsoft's deal to "merge" its search operations with Yahoo may accomplish some of that, but Google will dominate the U.S. market even after the business combination is complete.

Microsoft knows the antitrust game well. It settled a case with the Justice Department in 2001over whether the software company used the bundling of its Internet Explorer software with the company's operation system for PCs to unfairly dominate the internet browser business. It was locked in a similar battle with European antitrust authorities, which cost the Redmond, Wash.-based company $1.7 billion in fines and was only settled at the end of 2009.

Microsoft may be able to get regulators to chip away at some of Google's search dominance, but it won't be an overnight fix. If the previous antitrust cases against Microsoft are any indication, it will take years of investigations, legal maneuvers, and appeals. But then again, there is also the chance that Google won't be charged for any anti-competitive activity at all.

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