Google and Microsoft are long-standing rivals. Microsoft, of course, has played the role of the old, stodgy tech stalwart, while Google has played the role of the innovative, quirky upstart.
But Google and Microsoft may soon have a lot more common. That's because the Federal Trade Commission, spurred on in part by complaints from Google's own advertisers, is reportedly opening a wide antitrust probe that will determine if the search giant is abusing its search dominance in an illegal manner.
Vertical search is already a big focus in the search
market, and Google has its sights set on the skies. And we're not talking about the infamous Google party plane.
Yesterday, Google announced that it is buying flight information
software company ITA Software for $700m in cash. ITA Software's technology is widely used by airlines and online travel
destinations, and "effortlessly searches – at a billion combinations
per query – fares, schedules, and availability." That's why Google was
willing to pay big bucks for ITA's technology, which it hopes will
enable it to help passengers, airlines and online travel agencies find
flights and fares more efficiently.
Apple's rise to the top of the tech world has been marked just as much
by controversy as it has by success in the mobile market. The company's
desire for control has made it a target for critics, and potentially
Apple attracted the spotlight when it implemented new rules that essentially killed Adobe's iPhone/iPad ambitions by making it clear that apps developed using Adobe's Packager for iPhone tool contained in the newest version Flash Professional would not make it into the App Store. And its dislike for Flash was made abundantly clear when the iPad was unveiled, sans Flash support.
Given all of drama over the recent tiff between Apple and Adobe, the
news that regulators in the United States are looking closely at Apple
shouldn't come as a surprise. Apple's behavior, legal or not, was bound
to attract the attention of antitrust regulators sooner or later.
While many Apple critics will welcome the news, I think Apple
supporters and detractors alike have good reason to send the same
message to the regulators: thanks, but no thanks.
Some of the world's smartest technology companies may be a little bit too smart for their own good. Fueled by corporate leaders with big egos and a desire to develop and control new markets, companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft are increasingly treating their operations like a game of chess.
But is this really such a good thing? There's a strong argument to be made that companies engaging in the type of calculated strategy required to win a game of chess actually risk doing very foolish things.
If you're a big tech company, chances are the EU isn't your friend. Why? Just ask Intel or Microsoft. Targeted by the EU for antitrust violations, combined both companies have been forced to pay billions of dollars in fines. Other companies, like Oracle and Qualcomm, have faced EU antitrust scrutiny as well, but who eventually managed to escape with only a few minor bruises.
So it's probably no surprise that the EU is now eyeing another tech giant: Google.
In late August, we reported on a lawsuit filed against Google by LendingTree alleging that Google was planning to offer an online lead gen service related to mortgages using technology offered by a LendingTree vendor that was contractually forbidden from working with LendingTree's competitors.
While the status of that lawsuit is unknown, it is now official: Google has entered the lead gen business.