Google Spiffs Up Search with Chrome

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