CyberTech Rambler

April 15, 2011

Does Microsoft Antitrust Complaint against Google have merits?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:53 pm

The size of Google means it is catching the attention of antitrust authorities. That part is inevitable. I am sure their legal department is already geared up to answer antitrust concerns.

Not long ago, Microsoft decided to throw a spanner at Google by asking antitrust authorities in Europe to investigate Google. A lot of commentators says that Microsoft decided that it could not compete with Google on the normal battlegrounds and so decided to take the (desperate) attempt at using antitrust as a competitive weapon. I am sure there are some truth in it.

First, the complaint about crawling YouTube. From an outsider’s point of view, it sounds like Microsoft moaning that Google did not let Microsoft crawl YouTube in Microsoft’s preferred way. To that, my response is too bad for Microsoft. Google is not obliged to make it easy for Microsoft to crawl the website. However, because YouTube is a huge and important website and its very close  tie to Google, it must provide reasonable access. One can argue that at some point, what is normal business practice of excluding/hindering the competition’s ability to crawl a website can raise antitrust concerns due to the Google-YouTube relationship. However, from the  description provided by Microsoft’s General Council, I cannot see why they claim we reach the tipping point.

Second, on Android (and iPhone’s) supposed superior ability  to access the site compared to Windows Phone’s. The argument here is Google penalized Windows Phone because Microsoft offers search. This smack like a rerun of Microsoft Windows giving Microsoft Office superior access to ‘hidden’ APIs. Unfortunately, since Microsoft admits that iPhone’s access is also superior to that of Windows Phone, one wonders whether is it because Microsoft refuse to sign an agreement which allows it equal access as Apple. If so, then the wording of the agreement is needed to evaluate whether that agreement is fair or Microsoft has a case.  On the surface, as Android is extremely successful and Microsoft’s Windows Phone has yet to prove that it is a serious challenger, I cannot see why Google wants to disadvantage Windows Phone at this point in  time. I heard about the argument to ‘nip it in the bud’, but I doubt this is the case here.

Third, the Book Search thing. I can see why the US Judge is worried that Google might be too dominant in the book search field. However, let’s not forget that Microsoft thrown in the towel on this issue. I truly believe that Google’s dominant in book search, if it is too strong, is not good for everyone. I’m still a bit puzzle on why it is not Amazon that file the complaint.

Fourth, advertisers’ access to their own data. This complain is over my head.  I cannot evaluate it except to say that it is not unusual to not be able to access all the data one upload to any providers. For example, I often wonder what happens to the data inside a database once you stop your subscription to your database provider. The sad truth is, you might not even be able to get to read the data once your subscription expires. Finally, Google is known to be one of the most open company when it comes to getting access to your data held on Google.

I have an answer to the fifth and final complain, i.e., Google stop websites from distributing other people’s search box via contract. In fact, I got it from Microsoft’s own antitrust problem where Department of Justice claims Microsoft engaged in unfair competition when Microsoft signed agreements with PC vendors to stop them from distributing Netscape browser. The judge says that depriving Netscape of the most easy way to distribute is not unfair. That time, the judgement is for Microsoft, this time, it’s against Microsoft.



  1. I think you have fundamentally misunderstood the substance of Micrsoft’s complaint regarding Youtube. You say that Micrsoft has to go though extra hoops in order to “crawl” the website. In other words, you believe it is merely a question of extra effort required to retrieve the exact same information about Youtube videos that Google (and others that do not have search engines like Apple) lsreadyy have asy access to.

    No, it is not a question of effort at all.

    The issue is that Micrsoft is denied access to critical information about the videos (the metadata)

    Comment by Ian Easson — April 15, 2011 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

  2. Pardon the mess of my comment. I hit the wrong button before editing it for typing errors.

    Comment by Ian Easson — April 15, 2011 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  3. Ian,

    Don’t worry about the mess. It is less messy than the original post.

    If Microsoft were blocked on accessing the metadata for the search engine, then alarm bells will start ringing. While I can see Google defending some metadata on the grounds of privacy, it is a slippery slope on what is legitimate blocking. Google’s dominance in search means it should not be allowed to unfairly restricts other search engine’s access to YouTube. I would propose treating YouTube and Google Search as separate independent entity: What’s available to Google’s search should be made available to all other search engine.

    I had reread Brad Smith posting. The word metadata appears only when he mentioned ‘YouTube’ app for Windows Phone. I don’t read it as meaning metadata for the search engine. We will probably have to disagree on this.

    After reading your comment, I rereading his posting. I accept that saying Microsoft has to go through extra hoops to ‘crawl’ YouTube might not be accurate. What Microsoft appears to be complaining w.r.t. search engine is it does not have the access to YouTube as it would like, but this does not automatically equate to Google engaging in illegal/unfair anti-competitive measures.

    Comment by ctrambler — April 15, 2011 @ 8:30 pm | Reply

  4. I was not talking about the search engine at all, only about the way that Google is blocking access to Microsoft (but not others) to the metadata required for it to produce a YouTube app that is comparable in capabilities to Google’s.

    That is certainly not the way Microsoft would like it. But it also seemes likely that Google is engaging in illegal/unfair anti-competitive measures in this case.

    Comment by Ian Easson — April 16, 2011 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

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