Commentators: Google Is Not Microsoft

7/12/11 | 11:07:00 AM

Here’s what antitrust experts, journalists and others are saying about the oft-repeated but mistaken analogy between the FTC investigation of Google and the Microsoft case of the 1990s:

Comparisons are “Plainly Ridiculous”

The Economist

“Yet even if Google has to make some concessions in the end, talk of its predicament being the same as Microsoft’s in the 1990s is plainly ridiculous. By embedding only its own web browser into its Windows operating system, Microsoft deliberately restricted users’ choice in the hope they would become addicted to its products.” (The Economist, June 30, 2011)


Glenn Manishin, Antitrust Attorney

“[U]nlike the historic AT&T and Microsoft monopolization prosecutions, which were based on plainly anti-competitive conduct taken by monopolists to squelch competition, the concerns of travel and other so-called ‘vertical’ competitors of Google is that the search giant has what they term the ‘incentive and ability’ to harm competition in the future. U.S. antitrust law, to the contrary, bases liability on actual practices, not the potential for future bad acts. Google is most definitely big, but in America big alone has never been bad, let alone illegal.” (National Law Journal, July 4, 2011)


Joshua Wright, Professor, George Mason Law School

"As an outsider I would say that obstacle is far higher for them today with Google than it was back then with Microsoft.” (The Guardian, June 23, 2011)


David Balto, Former Policy Director, Federal Trade Commission

“Google is not like Microsoft. Google's conduct today is not like Microsoft's conduct during the 1990s. The markets in which Google competes are vibrant, competitive, and rapidly evolving. Any analogy between a potential antitrust case against Google and the antitrust case against Microsoft ignores the underlying facts and is a misguided over-simplification of the complicated nature of the on-line search market.” (The Huffington Post, June 30, 2011)


Clint Boulton, eWeek

“...I and others find it hard to believe it when Gary Reback, who helped prosecute Microsoft, says this is "Microsoft redux" and that it "is almost exactly the same case." (eWeek, June 28, 2011)


Kathy Kristof, CBS MoneyWatch

“Unless there is some evidence of coercion that we’ve yet to hear, this is not the same as the 1990s Microsoft antitrust case.” (CBS BNET, June 23, 2011)


Bianca Bosker, Technology Editor, Huffington Post

“Yet some experts counter that the nature of the technology involved makes it difficult to compare Microsoft's antitrust lawsuit and the FTC's reported investigation into Google.” (The Huffington Post, June 23, 2011)



No Lock In

David Balto, Former Policy Director, Federal Trade Commission

“Additionally, unlike Microsoft's operating system product, whatever power this 65% share confers to Google is moot because search consumers face zero switching costs! You can't have monopoly power if it is costless to switch to an alternative...Consumers have choices that are mere keystrokes away. Bing, Yahoo!, Ask.com all have measurable share of the core search market and there are also a number of niche search sites such as WebMD, Kayak, and Wikipedia. Unlike the cost of buying and installing a new operating system, users need only type "bing.com" into their browser's address bar to use a different search engine.” (The Huffington Post, June 30, 2011)


Robert Cyran and Jeffrey Goldfarb, Reuters Breakingviews

“In essence, Microsoft had a true monopoly, abused its position and government intervention was the only immediate cure. Google’s situation is more complex. The firm claims only about two-thirds of the search market in the United States. Rivals also accuse Google of putting its services first. For example, its own maps might turn up in search results. But customers can easily use other search engines or type in a Web site address directly, and search doesn’t appear to be a utility in need of regulation.” (Reuters, June 30, 2011)


Glenn Manishin, Antitrust Attorney

“The only thing that keeps Internet users returning to Google — which unlike AT&T or Microsoft has no technological means to lock consumers into its site or services — is running faster than its competitors. Antitrust law should intervene in that race only if Google acts to trip a competitor — if it cheats.” (National Law Journal, July 4, 2011)


The Economist

“Google is also addictive, but in the way that chocolate is, not in the way that cigarettes are. People love Googling, but they can easily give it up.” (The Economist, June 30, 2011)


Clint Boulton, eWeek

“Fairly or not, DOJ Vs. Microsoft set the standard for modern high-tech cases. Except in this case I would argue Google had the foresight long ago to architect its business so that consumers are not locked in to anyone software platform (as people were with Windows) or browser (as people were with Internet Explorer).” (eWeek, June 28, 2011)


Herb Hovenkamp, University of Iowa law professor

"There's no lock-in with a Google search engine. If you want to have six different search engines all on your desktop, you can do that. It's all free. That's a very different situation than Microsoft was in. ... It was very hard to escape from the Microsoft operating system, but here the escape costs are zero." (The Huffington Post, June 24, 2011)


Kathy Kristof, CBS MoneyWatch

“For those who don’t remember, back in the late 1990s, when you got a computer loaded with a Windows operating system, it was “bundled” with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft strong-armed its vendors into making it difficult for consumers to get access to the then-leading browser, Netscape Navigator, as a way of driving Netscape out of the business and unfairly capturing a dominant market position, according to the antitrust case...Google, which now offers its own browser called Chrome, clearly does not pressure anyone to use either its browser nor its search engine when we access the web from our homes and offices. When I open up the Chrome web browser, it’s just as easy to get to Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, as it is to get to Google.” (CBS BNET, June 23, 2011)


Bianca Bosker, Technology Editor, Huffington Post

“In the 1990s, there were few alternatives to Microsoft's Windows operating system -- rival computer and software manufacturer Apple, for example, was near bankruptcy in 1997 -- and disconnecting from the Microsoft ecosystem was costly, time intensive and complicated, requiring companies to overhaul systems and retrain personnel. By contrast, users can stop using Google's search engine at any time. Switching is free, requires simply typing a different web address into a browser and requires essentially no new skills.” (The Huffington Post, June 23, 2011)


Services are Free

David Balto, Former Policy Director, Federal Trade Commission

“For consumers Google's services are almost completely free. Indeed, it is the fact that the services are free that Google search has transformed the nature of retail competition. Contrast this to the Microsoft case where the cost of Windows 95 was $200 retail and $100 for an upgrade. Consumers' pocketbooks do not see Google as any type of monopolist.” (The Huffington Post, June 30, 2011)


No Harm to Consumers

Thomas M. Lenard, President, Technology Policy Institute & Paul H. Rubin, Economics Professor, Emory University

“With Google, there is the threshold question of whether the company has actually violated the antitrust laws. While the FTC may know things we don't, there is thus far no evidence in the public domain that Google is guilty of violations similar to those of which Microsoft was convicted a dozen years ago. (Forbes, June 28, 2011)


Geoffrey Manne, Antitrust Professor, Lewis & Clark Law School & Joshua Wright, Antitrust Professor, George Mason University Law School

“The focus of any antitrust inquiry must always be on consumer harm--not harm to certain competitors. We are skeptical that any such harm can be proven here. Google today is not the Microsoft of 1998, and even if it were, subsequent history has demonstrated that consumers are better served by letting rapid technological change play out in digital markets than by heavy-handed antitrust remedies.” (Tech Freedom, June 24, 2011)


David Balto, Former Policy Director, Federal Trade Commission

“There is a fundamental difference between the evidence of anticompetitive harm in Microsoft and Google's alleged exclusionary conduct. In Microsoft, there was a mountain of evidence that Microsoft's conduct led to significant rivals being severely handicapped and excluded. In Google's case, there are merely anecdotal and speculative claims of exclusion and harm, mostly offered by those with an affiliation to Google's competitors.” (The Huffington Post, June 30, 2011)