After all the hoopla over Google’s antitrust complaint against Microsoft, today’s court hearing was absolutely anticlimactic.
The feds and the state attorneys general had disagreed on whether Google’s complaint was significant, but in the end they all accepted Microsoft’s offer to modify Vista and be sure PC makers can preload them with Google’s hard-drive search tool.
As expected, the judge basically said she doesn’t want to reopen the case against Microsoft and favors the compromise. Google and the states are still making threatening noises and some details have to be worked out, but this episode is over.
Bottom line, Google made a stink about Microsoft, raised the Netscape bogeyman and won a concession. (Just like Microsoft raised a stink about Google’s DoubleClick acquisition and got the feds to investigate whether it’s anticompetitive.)
But what about the consumers that these antitrust proceedings are supposed to protect?
They’ll continue to get extraneous software stuffed onto new PCs by computer companies hawking desktop real estate to the likes of Google and Yahoo!
There’s already a backlash against the “crapware” cluttering new computers. It was strong enough that Dell last week began letting consumers decide when configuring a new machine whether they want all this extra software.
Still, Dell isn’t giving a consumers choice when it comes to Google add-ons. The search company paid Dell $1 billion to preload its software onto new PCs from 2006 to 2009.
That must be another reason Google was trying to get prosecutors to extend Microsoft’s antitrust oversight. The last of the oversight will expire in 2009, just as Google’s deal with Dell is up for renewal.
It seems the onus is now on Google to make its add-ons so compelling that consumers will seek them out and download them willingly after 2009.
Doesn’t that seem like a better approach than paying PC makers to thrust potentially intrusive software onto consumers with the blessing of antitrust regulators?
That competition should push Microsoft to keep improving Windows so consumers will feel like they’re getting a complete package for their $129.
Consumers would benefit the most if the government let rich software companies fight their own battles, and directed antitrust regulators to go finally go after oil and telecommunications companies.
I guess we’ll see what happens in 2009.