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Antitrust probe told everything is a search result

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Eric Schmidt claimed in a letter to the US Senate's antitrust subcommittee that Google's huge array of web properties are not "separate products and services" offered by the company.

The Chocolate Factory's chairman made that assertion in a follow-up missive to questions lobbed at him during his testimony to on Capitol Hill in September this year.

[W]hat is crucial to understand is that universal search results are not separate 'products and services' from Google.

Rather, the incorporation of thematic and conventional results in universal search reflects Google’s effort to connect users to the information that is most responsive to their queries.

Because of this, the question of whether we 'favor' our 'products and services' is based on an inaccurate premise.

These universal search results are our search service — they are not some separate 'Google content' that can be 'favored'.

Schmidt added that so-called "oneboxes" that give web surfers direct answers when making certain queries was not unique to Google's service. He pointed out that Microsoft's Bing search engine displayed "similar 'oneboxes' prominently in their results as well".

Throughout the letter, the one-time Google CEO repeatedly contended that the company doesn't make separate products because each new offering has universal search results built in.

But convincing Congress to accept Schmidt's argument might prove difficult, given that Google consistently talks up new offerings as products and services, sometimes without even bothering to place universal search results front-and-centre from the start.

Google+ is a good example here. The world's largest ad broker only inserted search into that "product" after debuting it for a limited test field that just so happened to have, according to Google, millions of users signed up at launch.

Many have argued that Google+ is simply Mountain View's response to Facebook. Of course, execs at both companies have recently played down the idea that their products are social networks. Both outfits increasingly consider those properties as platforms. Which is a grand way of saying, "come pay and play on our flash online real estate".

Indeed, Google wonk Bradley Horowitz recently said that Google+ was simply an extension of Google's search engine. Arguably, though – in light of Schmidt's testimony in September and subsequent letter to the Senate late last Friday – he would say that, wouldn't he?

“We think of Google+ as a mode of usage of Google, a way of lighting up your Google experience as opposed to a new product. It’s something that takes time to appreciate, even internally," Horowitz told Venture Beat a day before Schmidt's letter landed on the antitrust subcommittee's desk.

"It’s easy to think of Google+ as something other than just Google, and I think it’ll take more launches before the world catches up with this understanding.”

Schmidt, elsewhere in his follow-up letter to the Senate, claimed that Google was not "dominant" in the online search business.

He argued that many of his company's rivals aren't just search engines. Schmidt said that social networks and mobile apps also posed a significant threat to Google's search estate.

"So inferring that Google is in any way 'dominant' would be incorrect," he concluded.

Schmidt said that social search had "become a serious competitor in helping people find ... answers online."

He added that Cupertino was becoming a more formidable rival in the search biz.

Apple’s Siri is a significant development — a voice-activated means of accessing answers through iPhones that demonstrates the innovations in search.

The tech industry is one of the most competitive and dynamic spaces in the entire economy, with small companies as well as larger companies competing hard against each other in lots of areas.

Google has many strong competitors and we sometimes fail to anticipate the competitive threat posed by new methods of accessing information.

We compete against a broader array of companies than most people realise, including general search engines (Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo!), specialised search engines (Kayak, Amazon, WebMD, eBay), social networks (Facebook, Twitter), commercial software companies (Apple, Microsoft), mobile apps, and even direct navigation.

The Internet is incredibly competitive, and new forms of accessing information are being utilised every day.

Fairsearch.org, a Microsoft-backed organisation that was founded to persuade the US Department of Justice to block Google's proposed purchase of ITA Software, said Schmidt had "thumbed his nose at Senators' concerns about how Google exploits its monopoly power in its business practices".

The group argued that: "Schmidt may be chairman of one of the most powerful companies in the world, but he cannot simply make facts and evidence of Google’s pattern of anti-competitive business practices disappear by denying their existence." ®

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