The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing yesterday on Google was closely watched for parallels to Microsoft’s antitrust quagmire of the 1990s. At a similar hearing in March 1998, Bill Gates insisted to some of the same senators that the company didn’t have monopoly power. Two months later, the government filed its landmark antitrust case against the company.

When the same question came up yesterday about Google, Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, was clearly determined to avoid the same pitfall. In fact, his response was so carefully delivered that it was interpreted by various sides of the issue as either confirming or denying that Google has monopoly power.

This was the key exchange …

“But you do recognize that, in the words that are used in antitrust kind of oversight, your market share constitutes monopoly … special power, dominant firm, monopoly firm. You recognize you’re in that area?” asked Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat from Wisconsin.

“I would agree, Senator, that we’re in that area,” Schmidt said, but then pointed out that the question of monopoly power is traditionally determined through a judicial process. “From our perspective, we see ourselves as having a special responsibility to debate all the issues that you’re describing with us now. We do understand it.”

Later, Susan Creighton, a former FTC official who works as an outside antitrust counsel to Google, was more direct in saying, “I do not believe that Google does have monopoly power,” citing the fact that consumers can easily switch to another search engine.

Watch clips of both exchanges in the video above.

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  • Guest

    Google is using the same arguments MS tried. The monopoly power that Google’s ex-gov’t mouthpiece is looking for exists not on the consumer end but with advertisers, and the various ways in which Google can and allegedly does hamper competition via inconsistent ranking and pricing.

  • Jeff Rodenburg

    Schmidt was obviously coached to be congenial and respectful, which contributed to MS getting in hot water years ago.  Keep it low-key and avoid the theatrics, and hopefully this issue goes away.

    • Guest

      I very much doubt this issue is going away, whether Schmidt is respectful or not.

  • chris livermore

    what the Gov does not realize is how can google hold a monopoly when the consumer simply has to type a different url to no longer use them? use any of those and boom, no longer a google customer.  switching operating systems back in 1998 was not as easy as typing duckduckgo instead of google yes, but MS was never a monopoly since there was always consumer choice.  
    if you really want a history lesson look back at the monopoly targets of the past.  during Carnegies steel ‘monopoly’ prices plummeted as he made steel manufacture more efficient providing the skyscraper boom in NYC which then snowballed into massive increases in the standard of living.  going back through the history books up to the present day the only monopolies have been Gov sponsored. USPS anyone?  why is it that FedEx cannot ship letters the size of envelopes?  anyone remember when you went to buy a telephone and your choice was Bell, Bell or Bell, Gov sponsored again.

    what google is going through is BS, what MS went through (and just finished unbelievably) was a total mountain of BS! all the way back to Carnegie sucessful companies have been kneecapped by Gov ‘monopoly’ slandering.  get the Gov outta the way of the web pioneers who are building awesome tools to make life fun, easier and enabling a whole new generation of entrepreneurs.

    • Guest

      What you don’t realize, and what MS didn’t realize a decade ago, is that it’s the Government’s rules and they can – and have – interpreted any way they want.

      • Guest

        What you don’t realize is that the government is us.

        We elected the government. We can vote the idiots out of office and keep only the intelligent ones.

        Do not fear “the Government.” Do not refer to our government as “they.” It is us. The government exists by the people, of the people, and for the people.

  • Anonymous

    It’s simple, 100% of new PC’s uses Bing.

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