Google gives in: Schmidt to face US antitrust grilling
Half relents, sends one of top two
Google has agreed to have Eric Schmidt answer US politicians' concerns that the company is running an anticompetitive search and ads monopoly.
Schmidt will testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights in the Fall.
He will appear after the committee's Senators Herb Kohl and Mike Lee had sent a strongly worded letter to Google in June asking that the company's two senior execs appear before their committee.
A Google spokesperson told The Reg on Friday: "Senators Kohl and Lee expressed a strong desire to have our executive chairman appear in front of the subcommittee and we're happy to accommodate them. We appreciate their willingness to work with us to make it happen this Fall."
Responding to the news that Schmidt will appear, committee ranking member Senator Lee of Utah is reported to have said that he looked forward to "discussing a number of important issues relating to Google and Internet search competition."
The committee said in March that it would examine allegations from web companies that they are being treated unfairly by Google's search rankings, and would look at the impact of acquisitions by the search giant.
Google had resisted a request to send either Schmidt or CEO Larry Page. Instead, the search giant offered its senior vice president for corporate development and legal affairs Dave Drummond.
The company's heel dragging brought the possibility of subpoena, which would have compelled Schmidt or Page to give evidence. Failure to appear before the committee would have meant they'd broken US law and were liable for arrest. ®
The "concerns" that the US politicians are expressing include those of rich, powerful monopolists/lobbyists like Microsoft, which seems to be behind most attacks on Google. The main argument seems to be that Microsoft should be able to have free "inside access" to Google's products such as YouTube. Yes, this is the same Microsoft who is trying to crush the distribution of free products such as Android in the marketplace.
This boils down to a question of morality and ethics, IMHO. How can unethical corporate behavior be discouraged? To start off, one could ask questions, such as.
- Which companies act as corporate aggressors, openly threatening others/demanding extortion money, regularly initiating anticompetitive lawsuits, colluding with others to crush specific competitors, and manipulating governments for corporate gain?
- Which companies make consumers pay dearly for nearly all their products and services? Which companies give away most services, much of their expensive development work (such as video codecs, mobile phone and other OS's)?
- Which companies stand up for user and human rights (i.e. China, other government requests to invade user privacy), and which ones seem to flush ethics down the drain to make a sale?
- Which companies cooperate with other companies for prosocial ends, and which try to eliminate competitors?
Microsoft and Apple do not pass this test of corporate ethics, however Google has been largely an exemplary example of a good corporate citizen. This brings us to consumer morality: which companies would be the more moral choice for receiving the support of consumers? People are not forced to turn a blind eye to barely-legal corporate aggression, manipulation of governments for corporate profit, and openly anticompetitive business practices. People (like us) can vote with their wallets. If similar products are available from two companies, we can pick the product from the company who demonstrates the higher standard of ethics. This can encourage companies to act in an ethical manner, or risk going out of business due to consumers rejecting their products and services.
For example, Apple initiated a lawsuit against Samsung, and now their fellow patent-pool member Microsoft is also now attempting to extort "royalties" from Samsung for the free Android OS on its phones. So bypassing all Apple and Microsoft products in favor of Samsung (and Google) products would seem to be the more ethical choice here.
Foot in Mouth
If MS accuses Google of being a monopoly, isn't that a statement that bing is a failure?
Google has been largely an exemplary example of a good corporate citizen
*chokes on breakfast*. You owe me a new keyboard.