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Eric Schmidt.
Eric Schmidt.

When it comes to competition for search engine traffic, Google isn’t most worried about Microsoft Bing or Yahoo as a threat — actually, it’s Amazon.com.

That’s what Google executive Eric Schmidt said today during a speech in Berlin, which you can read here. Schmidt was discussing how some say the tech industry’s giants — namely Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple — have created monopolies that have dwarfed competition, which Schmidt said he’s less certain of:

For one thing, these companies are each others’ biggest competitors, because in tech competition isn’t always like-for-like. Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon. They are obviously more focused on the commerce side of the equation, but, at their roots, they are answering users’ questions and searches, just as we are.

While this defends Schmidt’s point about how competition isn’t always “like-for-like,” his comments also show how Amazon has become somewhat of a search engine itself as it continues to add more products and services each day. The Seattle company is also making its own push into the online advertising business, potentially competing more aggressively with Google on its home turf.

But while the two companies compete on a number of levels — from phones to cloud services to drones to search engines — there is also some “co-opetition” between the two. For example, Amazon was the biggest spender on Google search ads in the U.S. last year, spending a whopping $157.7 million.

Schmidt’s speech today comes as Google has come under fire from regulators in Europe for a bevy of reasons, including giving priority to its own properties in search results and the issue of de-listing search index content. Schmidt tried to explain today how Google isn’t the monopoly that some say it is and that the company shouldn’t be treated like a utility:

Which brings me to my second point, just as invention is dynamic, so are the industries it creates. A few years back, a lawyer for one of our competitors drew a picture of a coastline with a little island offshore. He added a dotted line, explaining that this was the only ferry connecting the island to the mainland. His point was that Google was just like the ferry because it was the only way to navigate the Internet. Many of you may instinctively feel that’s correct. You use Google a lot (thank you) and so does the rest of Europe (thank you again)! But while we’re undoubtedly an important part of the Internet — and the key player in search — information discovery comes in all shapes and sizes because there are many windows onto the web.

He continued:

The reality is that Google works very differently from other companies that have been called gatekeepers, and regulated as such. We aren’t a ferry. We aren’t a railroad. We aren’t a telecommunications network or an electricity grid, with only one line going to your home, and no competitors allowed. No one is stuck using Google.

You can read his full speech here.

Hat tip SearchEngineLand

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