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Microsoft skewers Google in EU antitrust complaint

The company logo is displayed is at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.(AP-Yonhap News)
The company logo is displayed is at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.(AP-Yonhap News)

BRUSSELS (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. escalated its attack on Google Inc. by complaining to European regulators Thursday that its fiercest rival is an Internet bully that abuses its dominance of online search and advertising.

The allegations against Google crystallize the piecemeal gripes that Microsoft has been making about Google's business practices for the past few years. It's also an ironic twist for Microsoft, whose control over how software operates on most personal computers has made it a frequent target of the types of complaints it's now making against Google.

This marks the first time that Microsoft has lodged a formal antitrust complaint with a government agency against one of its own rivals.

In doing so, Microsoft hopes to encourage the European Commission to dig deeper into an investigation opened four months ago into Google's business practices.

The European inquiry was spurred by complaints made by several smaller websites. They contended Google was unfairly burying them in search results and highlighting the company's own services instead.

The sites behind the initial complaints included Ciao, an online-shopping site owned by Microsoft, and Foundem, a price-comparison site that belongs to a technology trade association backed by Microsoft.

Given that, Google said Microsoft's latest complaint was unsurprising.

``We continue to discuss the case with the European Commission, and we're happy to explain to anyone how our business works,''

Google spokesman Al Verney said.

Although the specifics of Thursday's European complaint were confidential, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith outlined the basics in a blog posting.

Microsoft has made most of these accusations before in public statements or forums.

It contends Google is making it difficult for mobile phones that rely on its Windows software to access Google's YouTube video site.

Google is promoting its own phones software, Android, and has been accommodating with Apple Inc.'s iPhone, according to Microsoft.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt was on Apple's board when the iPhone was introduced in 2007.

Microsoft also accused Google of making it difficult for advertisers to transfer their data used to manage online marketing campaigns to rival search engines. And Microsoft said Google has programmed its search formulas in ways that drive up prices for the ads that its rivals place alongside Google's search results.

The complaint also paints Google as a hypocrite. Microsoft says Google has made it increasingly difficult for Microsoft's Bing and other search engines to index the videos on YouTube, an apparent contradiction to Google's crusade to make content openly accessible.

Google has been particularly critical of Facebook's refusal to open up data within its social network. Microsoft owns a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook, and Bing has been granted better access to Facebook profiles.

``Unfortunately, Google has engaged in a broadening pattern of walling off access to content and data that competitors need to provide search results to consumers and to attract advertisers,'' Smith wrote in his blog post.

Microsoft has a business incentive to undermine Google, which processes about two out of every three search requests in the U.S.

and an even higher ratio in other parts of the world, including many countries in Europe.

After investing billions in its search technology during the past few years, Microsoft is desperate to close the market gap. Toward the end, Microsoft teamed up with Yahoo Inc. last year and, together, they now have nearly 30 percent of the U.S. market.

To protect its search engine, Google previously has complained about the way Microsoft had set up its market-leading Web browser, Internet Explorer, to make it less likely that people would install software known as toolbars from competitors.

``Antitrust has become a competitive weapon used by both companies,'' said Boston University law professor Keith Hylton.

``This is troubling because you never know quite what to make of the complaints.''

The antipathy between Google and Microsoft has provoked various theatrics. Microsoft once sued Google for hiring away a top executive and Google recently set up an elaborate trap to show some of its search results had been copied by Microsoft.

Previous antitrust complaints against Microsoft from other tech rivals had thrust the company into a court battle with the U.S.

Justice Department in the late 1990s. European regulators have imposed heavy fines on Microsoft for anticompetitive practices involving its Windows operating system and Internet Explorer.

Google has been fined in France and admonished in Canada for inadequate privacy controls but so far hasn't been penalized in an antitrust investigation. If European regulators conclude Google engaged in anticompetitive behavior, it could fine the company up to 10 percent of annual revenue, which is expected to surpass $35 billion this year.

Microsoft's move could exacerbate the legal and public-relations troubles already facing Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif.

The filing comes a week after a federal judge rejected a proposed legal settlement that would have given Google the digital rights to millions of out-of-print books. The judge concluded the agreement would have walled off its Internet search rivals from valuable content.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing whether Google's proposed $700 million acquisition of airfare tracker ITA Software would give it an unfair advantage in online travel.

Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Wash., came out against both deals as part of broader coalitions.

The state of Texas is also looking into Google's business practices.

Microsoft's decision to get involved in Europe's Google probe is a natural step, said Federico Etro, an economics professor at the University of Venice who has studied the case.

But he doesn't see this as merely another round in the jousting between two companies that don't like each other. He said online search is a very complex market, with multiple consumer and economic issues to sort out.

Shares of Microsoft fell 22 cents, or 0.9 percent, to close Thursday at $25.39, while Google shares rose $4.92, or 0.8 percent, to $586.76.

<한글 기사>

MS, 반독점법 위반 혐의로 구글 제소

마이크로소프트가 유럽연합(EU) 당국 에 반독점법 위반 혐의로 구글을 제소했다고 미국 언론들이 31일 보도했다.

이에 따르면 마이크로소프트의 수석부사장이자 고문변호사인 브래드 스미스는 이날 온라인에 게시한 보도자료에서 "마이크로소프트는 유럽연합(EU)집행위원회에서 현재 진행중인 구글의 부정경쟁방지법 위반 여부 조사와 관련해 정식으로 제소했다"고 밝혔다.

이 조치는 소비자들을 위한 검색시장을 조작했다는 비난 속에 지난해 11월 말부 터 EU 감독기관에 의해 진행되고 있는 구글에 대한 조사의 강도를 한층 강화하는 역 할을 할 것으로 평가됐다.

EU 감독기관들은 구글이 경쟁 검색서비스업체들에 대한 "비우호적인 대우"와 유튜브 등 자사 서비스에 대한 "우월적인 대우"가 법률을 위반했는지에 대해 조사를 벌이고 있다.

스미스는 이와 관련해 "구글이 '빙'을 포함한 경쟁 검색엔진들의 유튜브 접근을 제한하기 위한 각종 기술적인 조치들을 취하고 있다"고 주장했다.

또 마이크로소프트의 윈도폰이 유튜브를 작동시키는 것도 차단하고 있다고 스미스는 덧붙였다.

구글은 오래전부터 이번 조사에 마이크로소프트가 개입하고 있다고 주장해왔다.

지난해 처음으로 제소한 온라인쇼핑사이트 시아오(Ciao)가 마이크로소프트의 검색엔진 '빙'이 소유한 업체이기 때문이다.

구글의 유럽 대변인은 마이크로소프트의 계열사가 이 사안의 첫 제소자였기 때문에 마이크로소프트의 이같은 움직임에 별로 놀라지 않았다고 말했다.

한편 미국 언론들은 지금까지 미국과 유럽 등지에서 주로 반독점법 위반 조사를 받아온 마이크로소프트가 이처럼 같은 내용으로 감독당국에 다른 기업을 정식 제소한 것은 이번이 처음이라고 전했다.

(연합뉴스)

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