Microsoft is filing its first ever official antitrust complaint on March 31.
Not too surprisingly, it's against Google. More surprisingly, Microsoft's chosen the European Union antitrust courts -- which have proven more foe than friend to Redmond -- as the venue for the action.
The Microsoft complaint is focused largely around the search market and access to content and data in the mobile-phone space, as my ZDNet colleague Larry Dignan outlined.
As much as Microsoft and Google development teams are warring on the product and services front, the companies' lawyers are battling on the legal front.
Back in 1999, Microsoft was found to be a monopolist that abused its monopoly power in the PC operating system market by the U.S. antitrust courts. In a March 30, 2011, blog post by Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith, Microsoft makes the claim that Google is a monopolist in the search market. The reason Microsoft is filing the claim in Europe, Smith blogged, is that Google has 95 percent of the search market in Europe (as compared to 65 percent or so in the U.S., based on the latest comScore stats). Plus, there was already an antitrust investigation of Google underway in Europe.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the PC operating system market mattered a lot more than it does today, I'd argue. It determined the kinds of PCs that were available in the market, the cost of those PCs and the applications that users could access on those PCs. The dominance of Windows is what made Microsoft and continues to fuel the company's growth, to a large extent, even today.
However, with the growing importance of mobile phones and tablets/slates (in spite of Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie's claims to the contrary), being a PC monopolist ain't what it used to be....
With Web and mobile search and apps becoming increasingly important, search and online advertising are the new hotbed for competition -- and monopolization. Microsoft execs admitted just yesterday that the fastest growing (though not the largest) part of Microsoft's entire business is online advertising. Microsoft is currently generating $3 billion annually in sales in online advertising, company officials said.
I'm already seeing lots of "pot, meet kettle," comments about this from the peanut gallery. But let's not forget, Google was helping fuel the EU antitrust case brought by Opera against Microsoft, which resulted in a settlement by Microsoft, resulting in the creation of the browser ballot, among other "remedies." And before that, Microsoft ran afoul of the EU antitrust courts and was fined $1.4 billion for not providing adequate Windows and Office interoperability documentation itself.
Get ready for dueling monopolist banjos for the next few months/years. Once this one's over, or maybe before, I'm sure there will be a retaliatory legal action by Google against Microsoft, as well....
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