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Microsoft Goes Crying to the Government Over Google

If your weekend was a washout, just keep in mind that it could have been worse. You could work for the search team at Microsoft.

Redmond's flailing search ambitions took a major hit late last week when Google announced that it intended to spend $3.1 billion to buy DoubleClick, the provider of online advertising-management technology that Microsoft also coveted. (The worst part about the whole deal for Microsoft seems to be that, according to the Times of London, old bean, Microsoft matched Google's offer -- but DoubleClick turned Redmond down. Ouch.)

So Microsoft, having lost what many observers considered to be its final opportunity to make up ground on Google in search -- unless you believe, as Mary Jo Foley suggests, that this whole thing is playing right into Microsoft's hands -- is turning to the last refuge of the desperate company: the antitrust complaint.

Oh, yes. Drink in the irony. Microsoft and friends -- including AT&T, AOL and Yahoo! -- want antitrust regulators to look into the Google-DoubleClick deal. (Microsoft's own official statement is here.) Check out what oft-quoted Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith had to say about the whole thing in this Seattle Times article:

"By putting together a single company that will control virtually the entire market...Google will control the economic fuel of the Internet."

Uh, Brad, are you sure you want to be the one to bring this up? Do we even have to point out the attendant irony here, especially in light of current events? Probably not. But we will say this: We spend a lot of time here at RCPU defending Microsoft from Europe's voracious antitrust regulators, and we're very disappointed to see Microsoft taking the same sad tack that so many of its competitors have taken: running to the government when it gets beaten in a market. To paraphrase Anthony Michael Hall's line in Pirates of Silicon Valley, Google got the loot, Steve. (In this case, of course, the "Steve" is Ballmer, not Jobs...but we digress.) You bid for DoubleClick, and you lost. Heck, if the Times of London has its story straight, old chap, DoubleClick turned you down.

It's time to reevaluate Microsoft search -- and, actually, it has been for a while. Redmond needs to scale back on the search effort, develop technology internally or find some other way to compete. But please, Microsoft, don't go running to the government for protection. You, of all companies, should know better.

What do you think of Microsoft's search business now that Google has bought DoubleClick? Are you worried about the resources Redmond is sinking into search? Let me know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 04/17/2007 at 1:20 PM


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