WASHINGTON — Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Monday that unfair tactics used by Google contributed to its dominance as a search engine, tactics that have hindered Microsoft’s rival program, Bing.
Nadella testified in a packed Washington, D.C., courtroom as part of the government’s landmark antitrust trial against Google’s parent company, Alphabet. The Justice Department alleges that Google has abused the dominance of its search engine to stifle competition and innovation, at the expense of consumers. These allegations resemble a similar case brought against Microsoft in the late 1990s.
Nadella stated that Google’s dominance was a result of agreements that made it the default browser on smartphones and computers. He downplayed the impact of artificial intelligence and other niche search engines, such as Amazon or social media sites, on the market where Microsoft competes with Google.
Nadella mentioned that users often have limited choice in switching out of default web browsers on cellphones and computers.
“We are one of the alternatives but we’re not the default,” he said.
Nadella was called as a witness in the biggest U.S. antitrust trial in the past quarter-century, which is currently in its fourth week of testimony before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta. A decision in the case is not expected until next year.
The Justice Department’s antitrust case against Google focuses on the deals the company made with Apple and other device makers to use Google’s search engine.
In the 1990s, Microsoft faced accusations of setting up its Windows software in ways that prevented other tech companies from creating applications, similar to the accusations now faced by Google, which allegedly spends billions of dollars each year to maintain its search engine as the go-to place for finding online information on smartphones and web browsers.
In an ironic twist, the constraints and distractions posed by the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft actually helped Google gain momentum and establish itself as a dominant force in the search engine market. By the time Microsoft started developing its own search engine, Google had already become synonymous with internet searches.
However, Microsoft has still invested billions of dollars in attempting to compete with Google through Bing. At one point, Microsoft even attempted to acquire Yahoo for over $40 billion, but the bid was rejected while Steve Ballmer was still the CEO of the company.
Nadella, who was at Microsoft during the late 1990s antitrust showdown with the Justice Department, became the CEO in 2014. Under his leadership, Microsoft has made significant gains in personal and cloud computing, resulting in a nearly nine-fold increase in stock price and the creation of over $2 trillion in shareholder wealth.
Despite these successes, Microsoft has not been able to make significant strides in the search engine market against Google, with Bing still trailing as a distant second.