Is Google asking for antitrust?

Is Google asking for antitrust?

Summary: Google has announced a new Chrome Operating System, designed for the web and with a browser baked directly into it — so much so that the entire OS is named after it. But the search giant should watch out: this decision seems designed to attract antitrust attention.

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TOPICS: Google, Browser, Windows
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Google has announced a new Chrome Operating System, designed for the web and with a browser baked directly into it — so much so that the entire OS is named after it. But the search giant should watch out: this decision seems designed to attract antitrust attention.

Imagine the furore if Microsoft announced Internet Explorer OS. Antitrust naysayers would drop from the rafters for the chance to lay the boot into Microsoft. Things have got to such a point that the next version of Windows is planned to ship without a browser in Europe.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. If Opera has a problem with IE on Windows, they are positively going to blow many a gasket when they see what Google has in store. I'd expect the Norwegian browser maker to be drawing up a complaint to the European Commission as we speak — lest they'd want to be known as hypocritical.

Don't think for a minute that Google has not thought this through and does not have a game plan. At this early stage, I'd wager that one of the prime motivators behind the open sourcing of Chrome OS is to precisely avoid such potential antitrust claims. The argument would go that OEMs have the option to take the source and replace the baked-in Chrome with Opera, Firefox or WebKit.

That's the theory, but in practice, would an OEM actually do this? The Microsoft experience has told us no. Why endanger compatibility with Chrome OS's applications? As they are going to be mostly web-based, and presumably rely on the V8 JavaScript engine to provide performance, only a fool would swap out the fastest browser on the web.

There comes a time when companies move from being darlings to devils. Microsoft was once the underdog taking on IBM, Google was then the champion that would slay Microsoft, but today's announcement moves Google into new territory and new regulatory scrutiny.

If Microsoft is chased with torches and pitchforks for bundling a browser into an operating system, shouldn't the mob go berserk when a company the size of Google attempts to make the browser the OS?

Topics: Google, Browser, Windows

About

Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • The real motive...

    ...as to why IE got slammed in the first place wasn't just because of monopoly abuse. As a web developer, I along with just about every other web developer in the world regard IE as a scourge, because of its non-compliance with established standards. Every time I design a website, I have to design 2 CSS files for it (and extra HTML addins and Javascript files as well) because it does not behave like every other browser out there. I can design a website with no fuss that will work in Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari - with no browser detection or code mods necessary. Add IE into the mix, and you have to do everything twice over and in a completely different way.

    Much of the antitrust action against MS was driven by web developers and the standards organisations who rightly wanted IE gone. Because there is no law forcing browser makers to adhere to W3C standards, the webdev and standards communities were forced to attack it from the antitrust angle instead.

    Anything to get rid of the coding curse that is Internet Suxplorer.
    anonymous
  • Anti trust on free stuff?

    If the new open source system is given away for free, the strategical move from google is the same, and you can make most of the same points, but can you apply an anti-trust law to a company for something they give away? Sounds really strange...
    anonymous
  • Ah, but the law doesn't care.

    That's all great, but a precedent has been set now. You have to expect that the law will be applied equally to everyone...
    anonymous
  • Isn't IE given away as well?

    Yet it doesn't stop anti-trust laws been applied.
    anonymous