Microsoft vs Google: Birth of a new world

Microsoft vs Google: Birth of a new world

Summary: Microsoft's antitrust moves against Google are full of irony, but they could do the search giant, and the rest of us, the power of good

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TOPICS: Government UK
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If there was an award for truth in corporate communication, Microsoft's blog post outlining today's European antitrust complaint against Google would win first place for eternity for one single line: "There, of course, will be some who will point out the irony in today's filing".

The sheer chutzpah of the complaint, which outlines various claims about Google's business practices in Europe and America, is a wonder in its own right. It follows on from similar moves in the US, where Microsoft has already chipped in to antitrust investigations into Google — and, more hilariously, decades of ferocious legal action against Microsoft by, well, just about everybody with a legislature.

For those of us who have been following Microsoft since the early 1980s, this is a moment to cherish worthy of Monty Python. It's like the Romans complaining that the Visigoths weren't following best practice in health and safety as they poured over the city walls in AD 410.

But behind the breathtaking volte-face lies a profound admission implicit in Microsoft's new stance: if it claims monopolies are bad, then Microsoft recognises it no longer has much chance of creating or maintaining one.

These overt actions by Microsoft signal that it has lost the battle to assert itself through raw market power, and it is not confident it can do so through technology. Only legislation lies between its current position and capitulation: if you want a milestone moment in the history of IT, mark today well.

What about Google?

It turns out, perhaps surprisingly, that Microsoft has a point.

There should be strong regulatory control over monopolies, and Google most certainly qualifies. Moreover, in this case the discipline will be uniquely helpful. "Don't be evil" is a splendid mantra, but there are many signs that internally, Google is chaotic and incapable of imposing any single policy — including sanctity — across its empire.

This leaves Google open to embarrassments such as the rogue code that snaffled Wi-Fi data around the world, and the Buzz privacy farrago: there will be many other infelicities in its commercial dealings that we can't see, hidden as they are behind the norms of corporate confidentiality. Such is the legitimate hunting ground of regulators.

The company should welcome and work closely with regulators, and the sooner that relationship kicks off, the more control Google will retain and the better its arguments against claims such as Microsoft's will be. And the healthier the company's internal culture will become.

Of course, this route has its own dangers, its own paths to perdition, but in many ways Google is evolving into the sort of self-funding public service that will best suit the politics and economics of the next 50 years. As an experiment in all our futures, as a new model where the rich and corporate willingly pay for the rest of us, it's hard to beat.

Microsoft's move isn't just about the transfer of power between two technology giants on which the information of the world depends.

It's much more important than that.


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Topic: Government UK

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13 comments
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  • I have been quietly removing google from my computers along with unnecessary firewalls and anti virus programs and putting my trust in Microsoft.
    So far my speed has improved 70%
    waspy-a62f4
  • err, good luck there waspy. I think you will need it if your putting all your faith in one company and that company happens to be Microsoft, king of malware virii bluescreens and botnets. I'd rather go with the inovative leader which happens to be google at this point in time. Tell me the new windows mobile isnt a poor grab at the ever expanding android market? Also, if you used any other platform you wouldnt need an anti virus program now would you :)
    nissy-2f939
  • I'm with waspy. relatives and friends ask for help on their pc's - i remove the bloatware from pc manufacturers/google, tune up configure windows components that were stamped on, download the live/security/essentials/whatever and they go away with a cleaner/quicker/more reliable PC.
    Microsoft software is good quality now. sure it has a legacy to shrug off and it has as many misteps as sound, but on the whole it's positive. It's business applications are very good too.
    TechsUK
  • So, you prefer to perpetuate a convicted monopoly, that refuses to reform itself, in favor another firm that they accuse of being a monopoly? A curious choice...
    geek@...
  • Microsoft isn't claiming "Monopolies are bad". Microsoft is claiming "Illegal leverage of, or maintenance of, a monopoly is bad." Microsoft wasn't sued by the US for having a monopoly; they were sued for doing something illegal with their monopoly. That's exactly the point MS is making in the current suit: Google *has* a monopoly, and they're using illegal means to maintain it, and they're leveraging it illegally to gain advantage or a monopoly in a separate area.

    I don't see Microsoft at all making the admissions you seem to think they are; this isn't about "lost the battle", this is about forcing competitors to play on the same level playing field Microsoft is forced to play on. It's not the Google monopoly; it's the fact that Google uses their search monopoly to tilt that market and others.
    jdzions
  • Which is why we have monopoly law, to determine when abuse is taking place and distinguish it from legitimate exploitation of a strong market position. In general, if you're being successful against a competitor, you don't need to go to the expense and general anguish of trying to launch a legal action on monopoly grounds against a (by definition) exceptionally well-provisioned competitor. In fact, almost any use of company resources is better than engaging in legal action - which, ironically, lies behind the thinking of patent trolls and those who are keen to disrupt competitors at any cost.
    rupert.goodwins@...
  • Monopolies are always bad for the consumers. And Microsoft is definitely not done with its plan to maintain a monopoly in every market it can. Microsoft is always devising various ways to maintain its monopoly, from lobbying to using software patents in indirect ways. Google is still a young company in comparison, and I hope that they do not go down the same road that Microsoft has. At one time, Microsoft had good products, and maintained high market share because of it, similar to how Google is now. But, as they grew larger and larger, and got a tighter grip on the PC consumer market, quality slipped away and Microsoft turned to other methods to maintain the market share.
    Chris_Clay
  • Monopolies aren't always bad for the consumer, but they do need specific regulation to ensure that they aren't. Every organised group of people (companies, governments, churches...) ends up with more power than the individuals they deal with, and appropriate laws and regulations are needed to make the contract between them equitable. And powerful companies (governments, churches...) try very hard to subvert those contracts, because there's always some good reason (more money, the need to maintain law and order, etc) which sounds compelling within the organisation. And thus lobbying, rushing bad laws through, secrecy, etc.

    These are the way these things work. Google will go wonky, because large companies (as far as I can tell) always do, over time. And this is the environment that those who'd fight such things have to work in: it's best to know what you're up against!
    rupert.goodwins@...
  • @apexwm
    > as they grew larger and larger, and got a tighter grip on the PC consumer
    > market, quality slipped away and Microsoft turned to other methods to
    > maintain the market share.

    I don't think Microsoft has done anything that would be considered monopoly abuse since the 1990s. However, you're dead wrong about quality of its products -- at least the ones I use on a daily basis. The quality of Windows 7, Office 2010, IE9 and Windows Live Essentials is exceptional, and (generalising) they've never been better.

    Otherwise, monopoly market shares are encouraged by patent and copyright laws and are common in IT and on the web. Examples in technology include IBM (mainframes), Intel (processors), Cisco (routers) and Apple (MP3 players). Examples on the web include Google, Amazon, eBay, Skype, and Wikipedia. And the idea that you can or should stop a successful company from gaining a dominant market share is naive in the extreme.
    Jack Schofield
  • @Jack,
    > I don't think Microsoft has done anything that would be considered monopoly
    > abuse since the 1990s

    Not by you, of course. Others might point to its virtual giving away Windows XP in order to snatch back the netbook market from the upstart Linux. And now it has that market to itself, Microsoft has gamed it to define exactly what a netbook is and does: maximum screen size, no more than 1 Gig of RAM, no more that 160 Gig hard drive, and so on. Nothing anti-competitive there, oh no.

    Or how about Microsoft's blatant vote rigging in order to get its proprietary (and unbelievably shoddy) MSOOXML file format ratified as an ISO standard? An campaign that pretty much reduced ISO to a laughing stock.

    Last but not least, Microsoft's protection racket-style shakedowns of companies to pay them for "Linux patents", even though the company has had nothing to do with the development of Linux itself.
    BrownieBoy-4ea41
  • @BrownieBoy . You forgot to mention how Microsoft also screwed around with the Open Document standard whilst it was going through the ratification processes in order to obtain to achieve ISO status; amongst many other anti competitive or anti consumer practices, although the most notable one is probably the ongoing attempt to lock everyone into it's non standard (non standards compliant) Office document file formats.
    The Former Moley
  • @BrownieBoy

    > Others might point to its virtual giving away Windows XP in order to
    > snatch back the netbook market from the upstart Linux.

    So Linux can't compete with a 10 year old Windows XP even though XP still cost more than free Linux? How shocking that "actual giving away" can't compete with "virtual giving away".

    Either way, it's not "monopoly abuse".

    > And now it has that market to itself, Microsoft has gamed it to define exactly
    > what a netbook is and does: maximum screen size, no more than 1 Gig of RAM,
    > no more that 160 Gig hard drive, and so on. Nothing anti-competitive there, oh no.

    Microsoft and Intel offer products with certain limitations that OEMs can either use or not. It's entirely up the manufacturer and then ultimately to the customer. If you don't like it, don't buy it. That works for me.

    I appreciate that charging different prices for different products should be illegal and will be banned when you overthrow the evil capitalist system. However, it's something that Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and millions of other software suppliers do. So until you destroy capitalism, you could actually just let them get on with their legitimate and legal business. Again, it's not "monopoly abuse".

    > Or how about Microsoft's blatant vote rigging in order to get its proprietary
    > (and unbelievably shoddy) MSOOXML file format ratified as an ISO standard?

    I take it you have no previous experience but only discovered the ISO as part of the anti-Microsoft hate campaign. It's wonderful to see such innocence. Otherwise, (a) the rules allow people to vote for what they want, and (b) it's obvious to any rational person that it's much better to have OOXML as a ratified published open standard than to have the old closed Microsoft-proprietary de facto standards, which would have continued to dominate the market anyway. There's actually no rational reason for being a bad loser, and it's still not "monopoly abuse".

    I appreciate that there are people who only believe in open standards as long as they are being used as weapons against Microsoft. I'm just grateful I don't know anybody who is quite that big a hypocrite.

    Still, why do you care? I thought you used the bloated, bug-ridden, dog-slow overrpriced Open Office... Sorry, I forgot that Sun-pwned scam fell apart and got replaced by Libre ;-)

    > Microsoft's protection racket-style shakedowns of companies to pay them
    > for "Linux patents", even though the company has had nothing to do with
    > the development of Linux itself.

    Can't say I support software patents myself, but again, it's not "monopoly abuse".

    Sadly, people who own patents are legally able to defend them. IBM has been making money out of licensing patents for decades: indeed, it has far more patents than Microsoft, and more lawyers. (They may well be better lawyers as well, by the number of ridiculous patent lawsuits that Microsoft has lost.)

    Apple seems to be throwing lawsuits and almost everybody, and unlike Microsoft, it's not resorting to law after years of trying to negotiate a fair rate for its IP. Shouldn't you be putting a bit more effort into hating Apple?

    I appreciate that Microsoft is supremely evil for doing something that's (a) legal and (b) the same as IBM, Apple, Oracle etc, but then, what would happen if Microsoft wasn't there to be hated? How would a handful of desperately sad people manage to pass the time?
    Jack Schofield
  • @Jack,
    > Shouldn't you be putting a bit more effort into hating Apple?

    What Apple is doing to Samsung and others is repulsive, and I may not buy any more Apple products because of it. However, that's irrelevant to the current conversation which was about Microsoft not Apple. Or are you seriously arguing that Microsoft's behaviour is okay because everyone else is doing it? Two wrongs make a right, Jack?

    As for Microsoft "resorting to law after years of trying to negotiate a fair rate for its IP"; the company *has* no relevant IP as regards Linux. That's made clear by Microsoft's MO when they make their play. They try to make a company sign an NDA before they'll even *tell* them what MS patents are being violated!! Not my idea of "trying to negotiate a fair rate". Thankfully, Barnes and Noble had the guts to bring the entire sleazy operation out into the open.

    > it's much better to have OOXML as a ratified published open standard
    A "standard" that thinks that 1900 was a leap year, and which contains tags like "autospacelikeword95" (but without defining what that tag actually means)? No, I don't think it's any better than "old closed Microsoft-proprietary de facto standards" that it's supposed to replace (but hasn't really).
    BrownieBoy-4ea41