It will be a very interesting day for the technology industry in Washington, D.C., as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing called, “The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?” — digging into the antitrust issues being explored by the FTC in its investigation of the search company.
Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman and former chief executive, will be kicking things off at 11 a.m. Pacific time. The question is whether Google is using its dominance of Internet search and search advertising to its unfair advantage in other markets, giving its own products an edge over rivals.
Microsoft itself isn’t testifying, but the Redmond company will be a central topic — not only because of the parallels to its own antitrust case in the 1990s, but also because Schmidt is expected to cite the growth of Microsoft Bing as he makes the case that Google is facing a highly competitive market.
Here’s an excerpt from the written testimony that Google supplied in advance to the Senate committee.
Among major search engines, Microsoft’s Bing has continued to gain in popularity, perhaps because it comes pre-installed as the search default on over 70 percent of new computers sold. Microsoft’s Bing is the exclusive search provider for Yahoo! and Facebook. Microsoft recently signed a deal for Bing to power English language search on the fast-rising Chinese search engine Baidu, which Baidu has acknowledged will help it become more competitive in markets outside of China. In addition to Internet Explorer, Microsoft has integrated Bing into its popular gaming console, the Xbox 360, which it is in talks with cable companies to convert into the set-top box of the future. Microsoft’s Bing launched in June 2009 and has grown so rapidly that some commentators have speculated that it could overtake Google as early as 2012.
That last line is eliciting plenty of guffaws as the advance copy of the testimony circulates among the media. And it’s certainly a stretch. However, strictly speaking, Schmidt’s statement is true. The digital copy of his testimony links to this April 11 Mashable story that does, in fact, speculate that Google could overtake Bing next year.
People testifying after Schmidt will include Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and Tom Barnett, outside counsel to Bellevue-based online travel company Expedia, which along with Microsoft and others is a member of a group called FairSearch.org that calls for scrutiny of Google’s practices.
Here’s Schmidt answering questions about the case in a web extra from ABC’s This Week this weekend.