The highlight of the second day of the Google antitrust hearings at the United States Capitol Building was Executive Chairman’s Eric Schmidt testimony. Schmidt was Google’s Chief Executive Officer during most of the first decade of the new millennium, a period of extraordinary growth for the once-fledgling Internet search giant. During his turn as CEO, Schmidt helped the company develop an unmatched affinity for business growth and expansion. On day 2 of the antitrust hearings, Schmidt seemed confident and poised to defend his company at all costs.
The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights got started shortly after 2:00 pm. On Wednesday September 21, 2011, Senator Herb Kohl (D., Wis.) delivered a statement pertinent to the inquiry conducted by the antitrust committee. Senator Kohl specifically named some of Google’s specialized features – such as Finance, Product Search, Places, and the new Flight Search – as examples of the company becoming a vast Internet conglomerate. The committee’s main doubt seems to be centered on whether Google’s superiority manages to smother the competition in a monopolistic way.
Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) followed Senator Kohl with stronger remarks aimed at Google’s market position and its apparent ability to either enthrone or dethrone an e-commerce entity merely by placement of search results. Senator Lee also reminded the hearing’s wide audience that Google is currently the subject of an investigation by the United States Federal Trade Commission. He continued by mentioning that mobile devices running the Android operating system platform, such as smartphones and tablet computers, have the capacity to direct mobile Internet traffic to Google’s properties.
Senators Kohl and Lee weren’t the only legislators to cast doubt over Google’s absence of evil as an Internet giant. Senators Al Franken (D., Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) also joined the camp. But Senators Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) were kind on Google. Senator Schummer went as far as relating his recent contacts with a few technology start-ups in New York; he asked the principals of the tech companies if they thought Google was “rapacious”. Four-fifths of the questioned businessmen did not think so, according to Schumer.
Google’s Chairman Schmidt sat back and calmly took in all of the committee’s comments. Then came his turn at the stand. He began with stately remarks about Google’s well-meaning intentions, not only towards its customers, but also towards the economy in general. Schmidt cited Google’s current and extensive hiring campaign during a period of historically high unemployment.
Schmidt also reminded the committee of Amazon, Apple and Facebook; three companies that routinely and vigorously compete for a larger share of the Internet pie. The Google Chairman tacitly left out Microsoft, a tech rival that has previously experienced the throes of Senate antitrust hearings. But Schmidt’s initial omission of Microsoft did not last long. Though he never referred to Microsoft by name, Schmidt mentioned antitrust events that took place twenty years ago involving software that “was nearly on every computer.”
Schmidt’s demeanor at the stand was befitting of a captain of industry. He apologized on Google’s behalf when necessary, and did not make any compromises. He steadfastly held on to his belief that Google’s practices are sufficient to prevent it from becoming evil. Meanwhile, outside of Capitol Hill, Google’s aggressive hiring policies were more than evident as more lobbying firms and specialized attorneys were retained to defend the search giant’s good name. Echoes of Microsoft’s antitrust hearings bounced off the Senate Chamber’s walls.
Google is quickly moving into new territory including the lucrative travel, credit card, mostgage, and insurance industries. We can expect more scrutiny to placed on Google as they fuel aggressive growth in an uninspired economy.
About the Author:
Sebastian is a blogger for an insurance comparison service.