The fierce battle between Microsoft and Google has a long history with many different dimensions or ‘episodes’ to consider at the same time. One of them has just resurfaced in the media. It would take a lot of time to process the information and rewrite one cohesive piece, so this post is composed from a series of recent news articles that are posted in a logical (and sometimes chronological) order. They hopefully tell the story accurately enough, unlike some journalists who seem to have missed the broader picture.
”Aren’t we already used to seeing lawsuits by proxy from Microsoft? This includes several lawsuits against Linux (the kernel). “Controversial action is better off taken in disguise. We have seen this many times before in the context of Silverlight and OOXML (Novell for instance). It’s a pattern. It’s a diversion strategy that involves proxies, as in “when you cannot attack directly, seek out some friends.” That appears to be the motto anyway.
Aren’t we already used to seeing lawsuits by proxy from Microsoft? This includes several lawsuits against Linux (the kernel). How about this very new one against IBM [via Andy Updegrove]? Here is some information about the party which launched the lawsuit:
Platform Solutions, founded in 2003, is funded by venture-capital firm Blueprint Ventures, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Intel Capital, InterWest Partners, InvestCorp, and Microsoft.
Yes, that’s Microsoft right there. Remember that Bill Gates perceives IBM as Microsoft’s #1 threat.
This all come at a time when Microsoft and Viacom join forces against another giant (also in Forbes Magazine, whose name is Google. Google is a fast-growing giant, but the same cannot be said about IBM. It is therefore not surprising that Steve Ballmer sees Google — not IBM — as Microsoft’s #1 threat (alongside GNU/Linux)
The new attack on Google should be seen in context. There’s history there. Here is a quick summary, which was constructed by extracting quotes from the news.
Viacom Attacks YouTube (Google)
Here is where some of this story began, after Google’s inability to police its content and users.
The Viacom versus Google case is going to be an interesting showdown.
Then, months later, Viacom had a response that justifies some of its actions.
In the meantime, there’s still the matter of that $1 billion lawsuit. Viacom earlier this year sued Google over the misappropriation of copyrighted content on YouTube.
This is despite the fact that Viacom merely fights a disruptive trend and it may be too late to the party.
Listening to the anti-Google and YouTube rhetoric spewing out of the mouth of Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman one has to wonder why he bothered to show up to the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco last week.
Microsoft Joins the Anti-Google Lobby
Watch Microsoft’s role in the lawsuits against Google. At some stages, Microsoft even encouraged publishers to sue Google.
After a government- and monopoly-inspired period in which Microsoft had to pretend to be a gentle force for global good, the company is being forced to return to its ruthless roots. Ironically, it is doing this in part by decrying the unfair practices of a competitor and shamelessly sucking up to the Establishment.
Watch some of the hypocrisy in Microsoft’s actions.
To that point, Soapbox was littered with pirated videos. This put Microsoft in a pickle. The software giant was agreeing to distribute content for entertainment companies whose copyright was commonly violated at its video-sharing site.
This brings us to a little more hypocrisy on Microsoft’s part.
Microsoft Shows Its Hypocrisy
Recently, Google pursued the acquisition of DoubleClick. Microsoft was fast to complain, but only later it turned out that Microsoft wanted to acquire the very same company (and got rejected by shareholders).
This raises a very important question – why didn’t Microsoft match Google’s $3.1 billion offer. Smith would not comment on this, but I can report from very good sources that in fact the company did offer to match it, and was willing to pay even more to insure that Google did not corner the online ad market. But for whatever reasons, the private equity firm that owned the majority of DoubleClick’s shares decided to go with Google.
I asked Smith about the irony of Microsoft asking the government to support it on antitrust. His response was interesting.
Google Gets the OK
It seemed like Microsoft’s actions (more on this later) were fruitful, but they were not. As far as the FTC was concerned, all was well at the time.
The deal has faced fierce opposition from both Microsoft (MSFT) and some privacy advocates.
The FTC has its share problems when it comes to monopolies.
On December 20th, 2007:
Federal Trade Commission regulators said Thursday that Google’s controversial $3.1 billion merger proposal with DoubleClick can proceed, despite earlier complaints raised by competitors and privacy advocates.
Be aware that Microsoft then started to lobby very heavily and called partners to join the attack on Google. That brings us to the next bunch of articles.
Microsoft Attacks Google
Microsoft not only invited other companies, but it also used marketing people and other groups to do its legwork and serve as seemingly-independent parties.
Microsoft has hired lobbying firm Patton Boggs LLC to do work on “competitive issues surrounding Google/DoubleClick [sic] merger.”
Google hasn’t much luck when it comes to justice.
Nearly a decade after the government began its landmark effort to break up Microsoft, the Bush administration has sharply changed course by repeatedly defending the company both in the United States and abroad against accusations of anticompetitive conduct, including the recent rejection of a complaint by Google.
In the most striking recent example of the policy shift, the top antitrust official at the Justice Department last month urged state prosecutors to reject a confidential antitrust complaint filed by Google that is tied to a consent decree that monitors Microsoft’s behavior. Google has accused Microsoft of designing its latest operating system, Vista, to discourage the use of Google’s desktop search program, lawyers involved in the case said.
On December 20th, 2007
Google’s planned takeover of online ad giant DoubleClick for $3.1 billion will harm European citizens through greater intrusion into their privacy, the continent’s top consumer group said Thursday.
You have to wonder who is behind this. More on this in the articles below.
Google Suddenly Under Fire
European lawmakers plan to take the unusual step of pressing antitrust regulators next month to look at privacy concerns raised by Google Inc.’s intended takeover of online ad tracker DoubleClick.
Two U.S. senators on the antitrust subcommittee urged the Federal Trade Commission’s chairman to submit Google’s purchase of advertising company DoubleClick to “serious scrutiny.”
There’s a lot more (EU extends review of Google/DoubleClick merger).
Microsoft’s Hypocrisy Returns
There are many ways (and means) to view Microsoft’s sheer hypocrisy. One of them is to consider some of the gigantic acquisitions Microsoft has successfully completed since its Google scrutiny (joint effort with AT&T)
Luckily for Google, some of this hypocrisy is actually paying off for Google.
Now Google is pointing to a new, $500 million ad deal between Redmond and Viacom on Wednesday as proof positive that there’s plenty of competition in the online ad market–a not-so-thinly-veiled reminder that its planned purchase deserves the green light.
Google has more plans for the future (not that we ought to endorse such compromise of privacy).
Tim Armstrong, Google’s president of advertising and commerce in North America, said the Web search leader’s forays into selling ads in print, radio and television had shown that marketers would be keen to use a joint system that let them better manage ad inventory.
This long and laborious post has hopefully shown how Microsoft reaches out to other parties when it needs to apply pressure on competitors. We have seen that many times before and we shall certainly see more of this in the future. █