Obama's Pick For Anti-Trust Chief Sees Google As a Monopolist Threat

Illustration for article titled Obama's Pick For Anti-Trust Chief Sees Google As a Monopolist Threat

This week, we learned President Obama's anti-trust chief pick said Google, and not usual suspect Microsoft, may be sent directly to jail for monopolistic behavior. My oh my, how the tables have turned, eh?


"For me, Microsoft is so last century. They are not the problem," said Christine A. Varney, Obama's pick to head the U.S. government's antitrust division (ouch!). To which I say, has she seen those cute new Windows "I'm a PC" ads with the toddlers? If anything, Microsoft is adorable these days.

"[The U.S. economy will] continually see a problem — potentially with Google [because it already] has acquired a monopoly in Internet online advertising," she said.

The comments were made all the way back in June during a panel discussion sponsored by the American Antitrust Institute, but we're only hearing of them now, most likely because Varney is set to be confirmed by the Senate very soon.

But even as Varney was stretching her legs with lofty antitrust rhetoric last year, she was also praising the Google for being a "spectacular innovator" that dominated the industry with "terrific work" and that obtained its monopoly through lawful business practice. They were the kind of comments that inevitably set up a "but..." statement, and lo and behold, here it is:

"[Google is] quickly gathering market power in what I would call an online computing environment in the clouds. When all our enterprises move to computing in the clouds and there is a single firm that is offering a comprehensive solution, you are going to see the same repeat of Microsoft," she said.


Related to all this is an article I keep thinking about as I learn more about the all-but-confirmed legal onslaught that's growing larger in Google's HUD. In Wired's current 3mm thin issue, there's an article called "The Plot to Kill Google," which starts off with Google lawyers preparing to enter the U.S. Department of Justice antitrust wing, of all places. The discussion was about, wait for it, online advertising. This time with Yahoo. The Wired story took place in October, so the legal wrangling has actually already begun.

Google, for its part, has already started preparing a defense. Bloomberg reports Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said in an email response that stiff competition "is literally one click away" on the Internet. Customers are also free to search the internet using any engine they wish, he said, and nothing Google does prevents that from happening. "Cloud computing is really in its infancy," he said. "There's going to be rich competition in that space for a long time to come."


My personal thought on all this? It's what happens when your sea floor mapping platform discovers Atlantis. [Bloomberg via ComputerWorld]



Even though my knowledge of Antitrust law is very limited, I do have to agree with the Google guy. I haven't seen anything where Google is preventing anyone from going somewhere else to do their searches, or to get advertising, so unless there is a smoking email someone where that implicates them with nefarious deeds, I just don't see this one flying very far.