This week, it submitted a plan to European regulators to address their concerns. It has also bulked up its lobbying and legal staff in Washington and in Europe.
Google denies that it is monopolistic. “Every week there is an announcement about a new product or service. It’s an extremely competitive industry and is only getting more competitive,” Google spokeswoman Mistique Cano said.
What the company most wants to avoid, analysts say, is the burden of a decades-long antitrust case.
Microsoft’s antitrust battle began in 1998, has stretched over three continents and cost the company more than $2 billion in fines.
Justice lawyers had been working on the Microsoft case until last year, when the agency finally ended its enforcement of its 2002 judgement against software giant.
The agency credits the antitrust suit for greater competition in today’s market.
“Microsoft no longer dominates the computer industry as it did when the complaint was filed in 1998,” the Justice Department said in a May 2011 news release announcing the closing of its case. “The final judgement helped create competitive conditions that enabled new kinds of products, such as cloud computing services, and mobile devices, to develop as potential platform threats to the Windows desktop operating system.”
But industry analysts say the computer giant might have been slowed by the antitrust scrutiny. New product and marketing plans had to be vetted by antitrust lawyers — a burden its competitors didn’t face.
The case has forced Microsoft to develop one of the strongest and most cunning lobbying operations in Washington and Europe, observers say. Microsoft said it was disappointed with last week’s ruling in Europe but declined to comment on whether it would appeal the fine.
Perhaps knowing just how damaging a federal probe can be, Microsoft has been one of the companies that have lobbied the FTC to probe Google’s search practices, said Goldman, the technology professor.
“Of course companies also don’t mind using regulators as a weapon against competition, with Microsoft against Google being the example I see most often,” Goldman said.