In my last two posts (one and two), I’ve been discussing the current problems as well as potential problems that will be facing Google in the antitrust arena. Yesterday I mentioned I was going to discuss Windows Media Player (WMP) and how this pertains to Google. However, I realized I need to go one step back first. First, we need to look at what happened with Netscape and Internet Explorer (IE). Initially Netscape was THE internet browser. It was the browser to program websites to be displayed on, IE wasn’t even really on the radar. Also, at this time with the web, these programs were being sent out by CD, it would take an extremely long time to down load this application. Why? because it was over a telephone line. A modem that was getting about a tenth or less of the download speed you have now with whatever your broadband connection is. That and your mom would probably pick up the phone to call some one while you were trying to download the software, or while playing War Craft 2 against a friend.
Since the medium of delivery for the browser was over CD it was a level playing field for both browsers to compete. You’d get one in the mail for whatever browser, Netscape, IE, AOL, etc. However, Microsoft realized the importance of this market. They figured out a way to leverage their desktop monopoly to foreclose on the browser market. They started installing IE onto all of their operating systems. Then went as far to integrate everything together to ensure market dominance. It worked because of slow connections and the fact that people are lazy. If something already works they will use it.
Flash forward about 5 years. MP3s have gotten popular through Napster and other digital Peer 2 Peer file transfer systems and the next big market is music players. Winamp was a major player at this time and WMP was not really any sort of competition for it either. In Windows XP WMP got a major over haul and was at least able to compete with Winamp. Microsoft decided to bundle the software in the same manner they had done with IE.
This is where the story changes though. The EU filed suite against this claiming this was anticompetitive. At this time the iPod had just come out and there was no reason to expect the product to come to the PC. It seemed like it was a long way from happening. Plus, even if the iPod was going to PC it was still going to be a niche market. So, the law suit. We all know now that because of the pace of technology and the fact that there were other factors involved with the selection of the music player it prevented market dominance of Microsoft. Without the requirement for iTunes with the iPod who knows what player would have won the market.
How does this relate to Google though? Well, looking at the search engine suit from Korea I mentioned yesterday, I think this has some pretty significant implications. Using a platform to control the method in which you use other functions can be shown to be anticompetitive. Google search engine is the first for mobile phones, however, I see no reason why it will be the last.
More on this topic in my next blog.