After years of fending off antitrust suits in Europe, Microsoft has now filed an antitrust complaint against Google to the European Commission. The irony isn't lost on anyone, including Microsoft, which openly acknowledged how amusing the EU complaint would look to technology and legal observers in a blog post last night..
"There of course will be some who will point out the irony in today’s filing," wrote Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith. "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. This is the first time Microsoft Corporation has ever taken this step. More so than most, we recognize the importance of ensuring that competition laws remain balanced and that technology innovation moves forward."
The implication of Smith's explanation is that the antitrust sins of Google are different from the antitrust sins of Microsoft, which, at the time, was merely trying to provide the best products for its consumers. Is Smith being honest? Let's take at the two scenarios.
In 2004, the EU slapped Microsoft with a record $613 million fine over its unwillingness to share its technology with competitors (in this case, it was about licensing Windows communications standards to its rivals). Today, Microsoft is complaining that Google is not sharing its technology with competitors (in this case, Microsoft wants Google to allow Windows Phones to access YouTube metadata so its phones can function as well as Android phones).
If those scenarios sound pretty similar to you, they do to us too. What's more, when the EU slapped Microsoft with that hefty fine, the software giant shot back with seven-page position paper that CNET called a "cross between a treatise and a legal brief." In its closing argument, Microsoft defends the bundling and integration of products. Tell us if this doesn't sound eerily similar to Google's justifications for bundling Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps, GMail and its other various products:
See here for the entire 2004 document.
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