Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Microsoft's pot calls out Google's kettle

Article first published as Microsoft's Pot Calls Out Google's Kettle on Technorati.


A friend of mine sent me a few links to a Microsoft blog where the company's legal department apparently has issues with the recent FTC ruling on Google's alleged anti-competitive practices. I could write paragraphs of babble but I think a direct quote sums up Microsoft's position best.

"Unfortunately, this agreement appears to be less demanding than the pledge the U.S. Department of Justice received from Apple and Microsoft nearly a year ago."

Microsoft's ruffled feathers come from Google's apparent blocking of the Microsoft YouTube app from Windows phones going back as far as 2010.  A service available to Apple and Android users by the way.  Again we'll let a direct quote tell the story...

"Google often says that the antitrust offenses with which it has been charged cause no harm to consumers. Google is wrong about that. In this instance, for example, Google’s refusal deprives consumers who use competing platforms of a comparable experience in accessing content that is generally available on the Web"

A more classic case of a jealous pot bashing the upstart kettle there has never been.  Replace "Google" with "Microsoft" in the preceding quote and it's 1996 all over again.  And there's the rub.  Microsoft doesn't think Google is getting punished enough and has somehow equated an inferior YouTube experience on Windows phones with Google's apparent monopoly on Internet search.

" We are concerned that the FTC may not have obtained adequate relief even on the few subjects that Google has agreed to address."

Microsoft appears to want to link two largely unrelated topics in their complaint which in spite of their claims to the contrary equate to little more than sour grapes. Microsoft's assertions bank on the short memory of the Internet and consumers in general.  Ironically a Google search can correct that.

Remember that the FTC went after Microsoft not because they had the leading operating system but because they abused their market position with it.  The tight integration of Internet Explorer with Windows operating systems starting with Windows 95 made competing browsers inferior on the platform.  It also allowed Microsoft to claim that the Browser and the Operating System were too closely interrelated to expose the details to competing browsers.  To do so would allegedly expose their trade secrets.  The FTC didn't buy it.

As for search, if Microsoft Bing is damaged by Google's dominant position in search and Google's related products it has less to do with anti-competitive business practices than it does with poor execution.   Let's be honest, nobody goes around saying, "I'll Bing that." Google's about search and has managed to leverage that simple fact in all of its products.  Bing isn't a poor search engine because of Google, It's just a poor search engine.

Consumer preference can be influenced but not controlled.  That's why Bing has been and always will be an also ran search engine just like Yahoo and the bygones like altavista or askjeeves.  Windows Phone still holds less than 5% of the worldwide Smartphone market and will likely continue to do so until it offers the features that can lure consumers away from Apple or Android.

Neither Google nor Apple have any obligation to help them improve that number.  A fact driven home by Google's impending removal of support for syncing Microsoft Exchange accounts (via Exchange Activesync) to its Gmail service as of January 30th.  Luckily Microsoft has it's hotmail service to fall back on.  Yes, that's a joke.

The bottom line is that right now Google's services are the consumer's choice for web applications.  Apple learned that the hard way with the Apple Maps fiasco but to their credit at least they tried.  Instead of complaining about being excluded from Google's services Microsoft should be trying to create a better competing service.  After all, software and servers are their thing, right?

Then again what else would you expect from a Microsoft legal blog?


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