Isn’t It Ironic? Microsoft Rats On Google To EC Inquiry

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), which was itself fined billions by the European Commission’s antitrust department, senses blood in that department’s investigation in to Google’s dominance – it has submitted a six-pronged complaint to the ongoing inquiry.

Microsoft’s top lawyer Brad Smith lists the complaints on his blog

  1. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has “a growing number of technical measures to restrict competing search engines from properly” indexing YouTube videos.
  2. Google refuses to offer full YouTube metadata to its Windows Phones app.
  3. Google must be forced to allow search competitors to index its hosted orphan books, as it is being in the U.S..
  4. Google doesn’t allow its advertisers to import their data in to platforms like Microsoft adCenter, making non-Google campaigns cost-prohibitive.
  5. Google disallows sites which host its search box from hosting rivals’ search boxes and other web services.
  6. Google discriminates against competitors by making it more costly for them to advertise their own competing services.

The EC’s inquiry is response to claims that Google demotes rival search services in its results, unfairly imposes exclusivity obligations on partners and restricts exportability of advertisers’ campaign data. It was, in fact, partly instigated after earlier complaints by a German subsidiary of Microsoft. The corporate-affairs war between the two has hotted up in the last couple of years.

Smit, in his post, acknowledges the “irony” in Microsoft’s action here. In 2004, after a five-year inquiry, the European Commission ruled Microsoft broke competition law by abusing its own dominance of the operating system market. It restricted interoperability between Windows PCs and non-Microsoft workgroup servers, and it tied its Windows Media Player to Windows, offences for which it was fined €497.2 ($700.55/£436.99) million.

Microsoft partially complied by retailing a version of Windows lacking Windows Media Player, but it failed to give over server information to rivals as required, leading the EC to issue a further, €899 ($1266.69/£790.13) million fine. More recently, Microsoft pre-empted a ruling for tying Internet Explorer to Windows by giving OS users a choice of rival browsers – a victory for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera.

The changing of the guard is clear – Google really may, at least in Microsoft’s eyes, be the new Microsoft. But the differences are also clear – where Microsoft’s power was on the desktop, Google’s is in hosted web services. Does Microsoft find itself behind in these areas because Google has abused its dominance, or because Microsoft has failed to build on its historic desktop savvy?

“By the European Commission’s own reckoning, Google has about 95 percent of the search market in Europe,” Smith writes.

This is the first time Microsoft Corporation has ever taken this step. More so than most, we recognise the importance of ensuring that competition laws remain balanced and that technology innovation moves forward.

“We readily appreciate that Google should continue to have the freedom to innovate. But it shouldn’t be permitted to pursue practices that restrict others from innovating and offering competitive alternatives.”

See where both Microsoft and Google rank on our latest list, The paidContent 50: The Most Successful Digital Media Companies In The U.S.