Microsoft to file antitrust complaint vs. Google in EU

Summary:Microsoft will file a complaint with the European Commission alleging anticompetitive behavior in Europe's search market.

Microsoft will file a complaint with the European Commission alleging anticompetitive behavior in Europe's search market. The complaint revolves primarily around Google's metadata access to rival search providers.

The EU has been investigating Google's search practices in Europe. A Microsoft subsidiary was one of the original companies that brought the complaint.

In a blog post, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith outlined the following:

  • Google has about 95 percent of the search market in Europe.
  • Microsoft alleges that Google is "walling off" access to content and data that competitors need.
  • Google is restricting the indexing of YouTube for rival search results.
  • Google blocked Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube by restricting data. Google allows Android and Apple phones to access data for rating, favorites and categories.
  • Google blocked Microsoft’s new Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube. Google has enabled its own Android phones to access YouTube so that users can search for video categories, find favorites, see ratings, and so forth in the rich user interfaces offered by those phones. It’s done the same thing for the iPhones offered by Apple, which doesn’t offer a competing search service. Unfortunately, Google has refused to allow Microsoft’s new Windows Phones to access this YouTube metadata in the same way that Android phones and iPhones do.

  • The search giant is blocking access to content owned by book publishers.
  • Google is making it more expensive to run campaigns on competitive search tools.
  • Google is even restricting its customers’—namely, advertisers’—access to their own data. Advertisers input large amounts of data into Google’s ad servers in the course of managing their advertising campaigns. This data belongs to the advertisers: it reflects their decisions about their own business. But Google contractually prohibits advertisers from using their data in an interoperable way with other search advertising platforms, such as Microsoft’s adCenter. This makes it much more costly for Google’s advertisers to run portions of their campaigns with any competitor, and thus less likely that they will do so.

  • And Google contractually blocks top Web sites in Europe from distributing other search boxes. Google has even blocked Microsoft from distributing its Windows Live services through Europe telecom giants.

Now there is a good bit of irony here since Microsoft has had its battles with European regulators. Microsoft addresses that issue head on:

There of course will be some who will point out the irony in today’s filing. Having spent more than a decade wearing the shoe on the other foot with the European Commission, the filing of a formal antitrust complaint is not something we take lightly. This is the first time Microsoft Corporation has ever taken this step. More so than most, we recognize the importance of ensuring that competition laws remain balanced and that technology innovation moves forward.

Microsoft's complaint is notable because the EU isn't terribly fond of the software giant---or Google for that matter. Turns out both tech giants are going to have to deal with Europe's watchdogs as a regular course of business.

For its part, Google isn't surprised by Microsoft's move. According to ZDNet UK, Google was expecting the move.

Google is "not surprised" to see Microsoft make its series of complaints, as "one of [its] subsidiaries was one of the original complainants", a spokesperson for the company told ZDNet UK.

The new battleground

Google and Microsoft obviously compete on multiple fronts---mobile operating systems, productivity software, search, cloud computing to name a few---but the next battleground will be the antitrust courts.

Microsoft has dealt with antitrust regulators for years and now its Google's turn. To wit:

Think of these legal fights as a battle between two well-armed heavyweights. The fun is likely to just be starting.

Topics: Telcos, Enterprise Software, Google, Microsoft, Networking, Operating Systems, Security, Software, Windows

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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