This is nothing new for Google, as the European Commission already opened an antitrust investigation against the company for that same reason in November 2010, while several smaller companies filed complaints in February that same year. But it is the first time Microsoft has filed an antitrust complaint against another company.
Microsoft’s complaints are many, and the company describes some of them in a lengthy blog post. Microsoft says, among other things, that Google has unfairly limited Windows Phone 7 phones from accessing content on YouTube in the same way Android phones do, that it is seeking to block access to content owned by book publishers, and that it’s restricting its advertisers’ access to their own data.
Probably the most important complaint claims that Google is making it more expensive for competitors to attain prominent placement for their ads.
“Finally, we share the concerns expressed by many others that Google discriminates against would-be competitors by making it more costly for them to attain prominent placement for their advertisements. Microsoft has provided the Commission with a considerable body of expert analysis concerning how search engine algorithms work and the competitive significance of promoting or demoting various advertisements,” writes Microsoft’s Brad Smith.
It may seem ironic that the company that has been accused of monopolizing the market so many times before is now suing Google for a similar thing, but it also highlights the reality of the situation: Google is the undisputed king of search in most markets of the world — especially Europe — and Microsoft is a much smaller player doing what it can to establish a better position.
Having been on the wrong end of an antitrust suit in Europe itself (and paying enormous fines as a result), Microsoft knows how strict the European regulations are when it comes to issues like these.
Google has vigorously defended its stance in cases similar to this one. However, as it grows bigger and gobbles up smaller companies (often giving away products that other companies charge for — similar to what Microsoft did by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows), it will be increasingly difficult for Google to convince the regulators that everyone has an equal opportunity in a space that it largely controls.