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February 26, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Microsoft lawyer takes it to Google, lays out antitrust concerns

Maybe he was inspired by the U.S. Olympic hockey team, but Microsoft lawyer Dave Heiner just delivered a PR body check to Google in a fiery blog post laying out their antitrust scuffle.

Heiner is publicly responding to Google pointing fingers toward Redmond as U.S. and European regulators scrutinize the search giant.

It’s a juicy post highlighting the friction between the two companies. It also shines a light on how antitrust concerns coalesce into regulatory action. And it’s a surprise coming from the usually reserved and private legal team.

A sample:

“Google’s public response to this growing regulatory concern has been to point elsewhere — at Microsoft. Google is telling reporters that antitrust concerns about search are not real because some of the complaints come from one of its last remaining search competitors.

It’s worth asking whether Google’s response really addresses the concerns that have been raised. Complaints in competition law cases usually come from competitors. (Believe me, I know: I’ve been chief competition counsel at Microsoft since 1994, so I’ve seen plenty of competitor complaints. Novell, when current Google CEO Eric Schmidt was at the helm, was never hesitant about complaining to regulators about Microsoft. Google hasn’t been shy about raising antitrust concerns about Microsoft in the last few years, either.) This is the way that competition law agencies function: They look to competitors in the first instance to understand how particular markets operate, the practices of dominant firms and the competitive significance of those practices.”

Heiner also said that Microsoft has been meeting with regulators reviewing its partnership with Yahoo, and Google and its business practices came up:

“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. We told them what we know about how Google is doing business. A lot of that entails explaining the search advertising business, which is complex. Some of that inevitably gets into Google practices that may be harming publishers, advertisers and competition in search and online advertising.”

Google’s success has made it difficult for Microsoft’s Bing to catch up, Heiner explains in detail.

Heiner also acknowledged that this is coming from a company that fought the same regulators tooth and nail, and he attempts to clarify what Microsoft’s objecting to. It remains to be seen whether people with strong biases toward the two companies grasp the subtleties:

“Microsoft would obviously be among the first to say that leading firms should not be punished for their success. Nor should firms be punished just because a particular business practice may harm a rival — competition on the merits can do that, too. That is a position that Microsoft has long espoused, and we’re sticking to it. Our concerns relate only to Google practices that tend to lock in business partners and content (like Google Books) and exclude competitors, thereby undermining competition more broadly.”

Comments | Topics: antitrust, Google, Microsoft


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