Google Concerned About Microsoft Browser
By ALLISON LINN, AP Business Writer
Google Inc. is hoping to pressure Microsoft Corp. into changing a new
Internet Explorer browser feature that could direct more people to
Microsoft's online search engine instead of Google's far more popular
Google has informally complained to U.S. and European antitrust
regulators about what it says are biased settings on Microsoft's
latest Web browser, marking the latest spat between two companies
whose business models are increasingly bumping up against one another.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google regards Microsoft as the biggest
threat to its continued success, and Microsoft has conceded that
Goggle is a formidable competitor as well.
The next version of Internet Explorer, available now in test form,
includes a box in the corner that lets people perform an Internet
search without going to a separate Web page, much like what's
available from Google's downloadable "toolbar."
Users who download IE 7 will be assigned a search engine preference
based on the AutoSearch function from the previous version of IE,
which is likely to be MSN Search. Google says it's concerned that
Microsoft's own search engine is getting favored treatment, and said
research it has sponsored shows that it's difficult to change the
settings in the new browser to a rival search engine.
"The market favors open choice for search, and companies should
compete for users based on their quality of search services," Marissa
Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience,
Gary Schare, director of product management for Internet Explorer,
said Redmond-based Microsoft's goal is to let users choose the search
engine they want. He also said Microsoft's feedback has shown that
it's not difficult to change to a different search engine.
"MSN has a certain amount of (market) share. This is not designed to
change this," Schare said. "This is designed to essentially keep the
Internet Explorer's main competitors, Firefox and Opera, both include
similar boxes with the default search engine set to Google, although
users can change to another provider.
Google said it has talked about the browser feature with the
U.S. Department of Justice and European Union regulators, although it
has not filed any formal complaints.
Microsoft fought a long-running antitrust case with the Justice
Department, and is awaiting a ruling on its appeal of an EU antitrust
ruling against it. In both cases, competitors claimed that the
company was using the dominance of its Windows operating system to
wield influence over other markets, squelching competition. IE 7 will
ship with the next version of Microsoft's Windows operating system,
and also will be available for free download.
Analyst Rob Enderle said he thinks Google's complaints signal that the
company is getting more aggressive in its competition against
Microsoft, although he doesn't think the search box poses any serious
threat to Google's business.
He added that Google's move was interesting in that, while Microsoft
dominates the computer operating system market, Google is the dominant
search engine provider. Nielsen/Net Ratings reported that Google had
49 percent of the U.S. search market share in March, compared with
nearly 11 percent for Microsoft's MSN Search.
"Once you start raising unfairness questions, and you're the dominant
player, then it would be very easy for somebody to use those arguments
against you," Enderle said.
AP Business Writer Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed to this
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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