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Google Spiffs Up Search with Chrome

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Now how did I miss this earlier—or is it new? While comparing Bing and Google search, I came across something surprising. Google is more aggressively hawking Chrome with search. Will Chrome’s shine blind trustbusters?

Does anyone else remember how Microsoft got in trouble with the U.S. Justice Department for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows? The DOJ accused Microsoft of trying to leverage its monopoly in desktop operating systems into the browser market. Hell, Microsoft is still paying for this behavior. The European Union is soon expected to impose sanctions, and possibly another big fine, for browser bundling.

Bundling is like breathing. Of course, companies are going to seek synergies between products. But antitrust agencies apply different rules to monopolies. Bundling for one company might violate laws for another. Microsoft’s problem was different rules. My question: When will they apply to Google, which search dominance should qualify as monopoly in many countries?

In mid May, I warned that trustbusters would go after Google, with its high search share and bundling tactics drawing scrutiny. Perhaps Google feels so huggy kissy with the Obama Administration, there is nothing to fear. Google’s little Chrome installation offer is interestingly selective. The option appears on Internet Explorer 8, but not Firefox 3.5 Beta 4. Is it coincidence that Google is Firefox’s default search engine? You tell me. That what comments are for.

I would watch for an increasing number of Google cross-product ties and bundles over the next 60 days. Google is going to get aggressive, and for lots of very predictable reasons:

  1. Microsoft’s European troubles will create distraction, opportunity to make advances while everyone watches antitrust regulators kick the shit out of the software giant.
  2. Google is feeling bullish about its Obama Administration relationships. New lovers are forgiving.
  3. Carol f-bomb” Bartz, Yahoo’s six-month-old CEO, is going to be trouble for Google. She’s not puckering up to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, which some people assume is good for Google. No fraking way. Yahoo’s brand and banner ad business are gold she’s ready to mine.
  4. Ad sales aren’t what they used to be. Google’s best strategy is to pull its properties and services more tightly together. Online real estate is leverage.
  5. Bing is here, and Azure Services Platform and Windows 7 are coming this year. Google is good at getting Microsoft to chase its paranoia. But Google has its own, and falling ad sales and shattered share price are reasons enough to worry. Now Microsoft is pushing harder onto Google turf. Microsoft has rediscovered marketing and branding.
  6. Android will come to as many as 20 handsets—and even a few netbooks—this year. Mobility is the future of computing, and the more natural place to use search. Google wants to pull its products and services together for mobile. What else is Android but an operating system bundled with a Google browser and supporting services?

Google should be careful where it bundles. The European Union is already on the watch, and the Obama Justice Department looks askance at goings on in Silicon Valley. The Clinton Justice Department targeted Microsoft in 1998 for fear the company would become gatekeeper to the Internet. From a perception perspective, Google is a much more likely gatekeeper—the kind of target that makes political careers.

Photo Credit: Jon Russell

13 Comments

  1. Spot on, Joe!

    I think it is especially good that you identify work as analysis apart from reporting. It’s decent and sets a standard others would do well to follow.

  2. To be honest, Microsoft being targeted as a monopoly was probably one of the best things that happened to the company (United States Courts; the European stuff seems to be all about harming the company rather then anything else). Microsoft gained focus, bettered its products (also a result from the security scare it got) and started componentizing stuff, all the while making it work better together. Now we have a triple-A line up of Xbox, Zune, Windows 7, Surface, and much more. Microsoft is making decent products, irregardless of if anyone is buying.

    Google being targeted is a possibility, and one that I think could help Google, but only if the company has more screw ups to fix then it does now.

    But currently I think Google is on a halfway decent course that they can correct any mistakes on, so long as the competition doesn’t keep current pressures. In fact, Google getting labeled as a monopolist would harm it far more right now then it would help, as it would at very least shut up every naysayer who whines about a ten year old case Microsoft fought and claims that it is just resorting to old behavior.

    But who knows? We can’t tell the future perfectly. Google could keep a perpetual 60%+ marketshare, or it could not, losing it to Bing, or even, in some fluke, Yahoo!. We’ll never really know until it happens.

  3. billybob says on June 5, 2009

    Bundling is where you force someone to buy product b when they just want product a. Google are not forcing anything.

    Besides, nobody cares if someone bundles a browser as long as they are following standards and therefore they are able to replace the browser with another. IE was DESIGNED to kill the competition and was tied to the kernel so people still have trouble replacing it. Microsoft would not have had anywhere near the number of problems if they had just stuck to standards rather than stifling them.

    See the internet tidal wave memo for more information.

  4. joe7pak says on June 5, 2009

    Joe –

    How can this possibly be construed as ‘bundling’ ? … it’s targeted advertising, plain and simply. Nothing is forced on you. It’s strictly voluntary if you want to use the Chrome browser.

    By your logic, if I go to microsoft.com, that stupid pop-up that asks if I want to download Silverlight( again and again and again ) is bundling. Although I just about despise Microsoft’s business ethics, I would have a hard time calling that ‘bundling’.

    And Joe, what is it with that Security Code thing and Firefox? I’ve got Adblock set to allow all scripts, and everytime I submit, it tells me that the number I picked is invalid, It works on IE everytime ( and I don’t like using IE ).

  5. billybob says on June 6, 2009

    I am not sure how much control you have over the site, but I have had very good results by adding a field which is hidden by CSS (not using type=hidden), name it something enticing like ‘telephone’. Bots always complete the field and humans never do.

    P.S. You have some human spammers visiting the site regularly. They are the ones that always give a website and then leave a message like "Great post!". Sorry but they do not think it was a great post, they just wanted the website link.

    https://joewilcox.com/2009/06/when-a-problem-comes-along-you-must-bing-it/comment-page-1/#comment-347

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