According to news reports, Google has complained to the U.S. Justice Department and to several states that Microsoft's Vista hampers competing programs that offer desktop search (including, of course, its own). Vista has its own desktop search built in, and Google complains that Microsoft has made it too complex for users to turn off Microsoft's own desktop search.
Shades of the past definitely come to mind, most notably Netscape. I remember there seemed to be something nefarious about how my computer behaved back in the old days when I tried to use Netscape instead of Internet Explorer -- my whole system would go ballistic, as I recall. And of course, in 2002, Time Warner's
Given the fact that Microsoft agreed not to use such tactics on competitors as part of its antitrust settlement, one would certainly hope that it would watch its Ps and Qs, since it would surely get called out for it (not to mention, consumers are a good deal more sophisticated about their computers now than they were in the mid-1990's).
Meanwhile, maybe Google's complaints about Microsoft simply highlight one of Google's Achilles' heels. Google has tremendous competitive advantage in Web search (as moatless as it may be), but most of Google's ancillary products haven't taken the world by storm in terms of market share.
Flash back to last March, and you'll find this isn't the first time Google's gone running to regulators -- check out my Foolish colleague Seth Jayson's article Google Cries Uncle (Sam), which was about Google playing the antitrust card regarding a Web search toolbar in Internet Explorer. He pointed out that Google's certainly not perfect in its own behavior.
Constant warfare with competitors can distract a company from its mission. For example, the book Mavericks at Work implied Netscape's Marc Andreessen and Mike McCue learned a tough lesson from the browser wars: Sometimes it's best not to obsess about beating and fighting the competition (for them, like Google, it was Microsoft), but instead, focus on customers. They learned the hard way. Google's shareholders should address the idea that its actions may indicate there's plenty of risk, even above and beyond Microsoft.
Here's some related Foolishness:
We interviewed Bill Taylor, the co-author of Mavericks at Work, and asked, Is Google Too Bold?
This isn't the first time Google has cried uncle (Sam).
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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.