updated 07:50 am EDT, Thu March 31, 2011
Microsoft accuses Google of monopoly before EU
Microsoft turned the tables on Thursday with a formal complaint to the European Union accusing Google of unfair competition. The filing, backing earlier comlplaints that were partly triggered by a Microsoft subsidiary, insisted Google had systematically excluded competition. Most of the complaints focused on YouTube, which Microsoft said was deliberately excluded from search results for rivals like Bing; Google also intentionally limited Windows Phone's access to YouTube, denying them the searches that only Android and iOS devices had, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said.
On mobile apps, he argued that Google had given Apple the same ability to find metadata as on Android because it didn't have a competing search engine. Google had allegedly obstructed Windows Phone on purpose to punish Microsoft for owning Bing.
"As a result, Microsoft's YouTube 'app' on Windows Phones is basically just a browser displaying YouTube's mobile Web site, without the rich functionality offered on competing phones," Smith explained. "Microsoft is ready to release a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone. We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide."
Other accusations argued that Google was blocking access to book publisher content and noted the recent ruling that had shot down its attempts to serve as a repository for books whose rights owners had either been lost or given consent. Google's plan would have allegedly blocked searches from anything but its own engine.
Advertisers were also reportedly being denied interoperable data that they could use with another ad platform besides AdSense or AdWords. The lack of usable information anywhere else means companies often feel they have to advertise at Google first and only consider others later. That limitation hurt the industry since companies didn't or even couldn't spend ad money elsewhere, according to Smith.
The allegations went on to assert that Google was making unfair deals blocking other search engines from websites and that Google was allegedly stacking the deck by hiking prices for competitors looking for ads.
Google took a relatively mild response to the complaint. It wasn't surprised given the Microsoft-motivated complaint from last year, spokesman Al Verney said, and the company was "happy to explain to anyone how our business works."
The EU said it was taking the complaint seriously and would get involved, but wouldn't provide more details of its approach.
For its part, Microsoft was aware of the irony of the complaint. It has been found guilty more than once by the EU for abusing its monopolies with Windows and Office, in one case having been punished for allegedly ignoring an earlier fine and ruling. It had been fined a collective 1.68 billion Euros ($2.39 billion).
"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," Smith said. "More so than most, we recognize the importance of ensuring that competition laws remain balanced and that technology innovation moves forward."