The sound of the world's smallest violin could be heard playing as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took to the stand yesterday to testify in the US government's antitrust trial against Google.
The crux of Nadella's testimony, given in a DC Federal Court, was that Google's search engine being the default on Apple or Android smartphones ensures competitors, including Microsoft's Bing, are locked out.
Nadella cited the example of Bing on the desktop, where the search engine had made some progress against the Google behemoth, mainly due to Microsoft's habit of making it the default in Windows.
Users can, of course, switch defaults within Windows if required.
Apple has long been rumored to develop its own competitor to Google's search engine. Still, for the time being, it continues to pocket the cash paid by Google to keep that all-important default position on the company's devices. Android phones, unsurprisingly, also default to Google's search engine; should a manufacturer decide to use an alternative, access to the Google Play Store is removed.
According to Nadella's testimony yesterday, removing the Google Play Store effectively makes an Android phone useless, something we imagine that Google alternatives would contest.
Google previously told the court its dominance was down to it having the best search engine. But Nadella yesterday refuted Google's arguments, reportedly telling the court that because Google has a lot of sway on the Android OS, whichever company Apple picks to be its default search engine on iOS (a consideration that Google pays Apple for), is the winner:
"Whoever they choose, they basically king-make," Nadella said.
Reports put the figure invested in search by Microsoft as close to $100 billion over the last two decades. However, despite Microsoft's resources, the Bing search engine still languishes a distant second to Google. Breaking those defaults that reinforce Google's position - regardless of how much Microsoft bangs on about AI - is therefore vital for competition, as far as Nadella is concerned.
The case has a while to run. More witness testimony is scheduled, and briefs must be presented before Judge Amit Mehta makes a judgment on the matter. After that, we'd be shocked if there weren't appeals against the decision, potentially pushing the final outcome years into the future.
And the outcome? Google might face constraints on how it makes its search engine the default. It could even be broken up; perhaps extreme, considering the case centers around alleged harm to consumers and competitors by the company's deals.
Either way, the sight of Microsoft complaining about another company's dominance through alleged nefarious practices is something to behold.
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