Monday, April 16, 2007

Antitrust Smackdown

In today's New York Times:

Internet and media rivals to Google Inc. (GOOG.O), fearing an unprecedented consolidation of power in the online advertising market, are expected to urge regulators to closely scrutinize the Web search leader's $3.1 billion deal to buy DoubleClick Inc.

Google on Friday beat out Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O) and Yahoo Inc. (YHOO.O) to buy Web ad supplier DoubleClick, securing a leadership position as the Internet's top advertising business.

Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, said the deal would allow Google to corner the online advertising market and provide them access to a huge amount of information on consumer behavior on the Internet.

``This proposed acquisition raises serious competition and privacy concerns,'' said Brad Smith, Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel in an e-mail statement.

``We think this merger deserves close scrutiny from regulatory authorities to ensure a competitive online advertising market.''

Microsoft does not see the irony in pursuing antitrust to throttle its competitors, when it is one of the greatest victims in the history of antitrust, and remains a victim to this day.

Microsoft has pandered to the level of its less successful competitors in attacking Google. Like Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Novell, Netscape and sundry others who hamstrung Microsoft at every turn with harassing antitrust lawsuits over the past 15 years, Microsoft now does the same to Google.

Microsoft failed fair and square in trying to buy DoubleClick. Microsoft wanted it and it was outbid. Now Microsoft wants to use the antitrust hammer to forcefully gain what it wants, which it failed to do in the market.

Long ago, Microsoft undercut its own moral rightness in its antitrust battles. The company did this by never challenging the premise of antitrust. Bill Gates went on record repeatedly saying he thought antitrust laws were fine, just that they shouldn't be used this time against Microsoft.

Now Microsoft uses the same weapon against a competitor. Its action must put a
spring in the step of Ms. Neelie Kroes as she continues to square off against Microsoft in the European antitrust courts. The director of the European Community's Directorate General for Competition (Orwellian sounding, huh?) knows that Microsoft barely stands before her, having already gnawed off most of the moral leg it stood on.

My advice to Microsoft's accountant is: beef up your reserve against an adverse judgment in the European antitrust case against you.

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