Obama anti-trust chief: Google is a monopoly threat, not Microsoft

The blogosphere regularly excoriates Microsoft for being a monopoly, but Google, not Microsoft, may be in the cross-hairs of the nation's next anti-trust chief for monopolistic behavior. Last June Christine A. Varney, President Obama's nominee to be the next antitrust chief, warned that Google already had a monopoly in online advertising.

The Bloomberg news service did an excellent job of sleuthing, and uncovered statements Varney made about Google and what she considers its monopoly in online advertising. Here's what Bloomberg reports her as saying:

"For me, Microsoft is so last century. They are not the problem," Varney said at a June 19 panel discussion sponsored by the American Antitrust Institute. The U.S. economy will "continually see a problem -- potentially with Google" because it already "has acquired a monopoly in Internet online advertising."

I'm sure over at Microsoft they're both pleased and unhappy with that quote. On the one hand, there's no doubt they're glad that they probably won't be targeted for monopolistic behavior. On the other hand, being called "so last century" --- ouch!

Varney will most likely not be a toothless tiger; Bloomberg says that at the same conference she

advocated aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws to curb the conduct of individual companies that dominate an industry.

And there's no doubt she is worried about what she sees as a Google monopoly. She said that Google is "quickly gathering market power in what I would call an online computing environment in the clouds." Then she added

"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."

In other words, when it comes to monopolies, Google is the next Microsoft. Here's what the Bloomberg article says she said about that:

As in the Microsoft case, "there will be companies that will begin to allege that Google is discriminating" against them by "not allowing their products to interoperate with Google's products."

Varney has yet to be confirmed as antitrust chief, and she said all this before she was nominated. Still, it spells potentially bad news for Google. It may be time for the company to start adding to its legal staff.

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