updated 07:25 pm EST, Mon December 19, 2011
Senate committee leads worry Google hurting rivals
Senate antitrust committee chairman Herb Kohl and supporter Mike Lee sent a formal letter (below) to the Federal Trade Commission backing an investigation of Google over its dominance of search. The Democrat and Republican together were worried enough about Google's lead in search following Senate hearings that they wanted a "thorough" look. They cited familiar arguments that Google might be abusing a dominant position to favor an increasing number of its own services in results on desktop and mobile, in many cases ousting challengers like Nextag or Yelp.
While the focus was on the desktop, Kohl and Lee spent a significant time addressing possible anti-competitive effects in mobile. Google is estimated to have a 97 percent share of mobile searches, a monopoly by most common terms, and through Android had 43 percent smartphone share in the US. Being in such a position could let Google require using its search as the default, the senators said. Its proposed buyout of Motorola was possibly compounding the issue.
Google in written remarks didn't help its position, according to the letter. Although it denied having that requirement just to use Android, it was reportedly "unwilling to provide any assurance" that it wouldn't change its mind in the future. Using Google search is a requirement at the top level of Android licensing, where the phone is a Google-branded device like the Galaxy Nexus, but it's not required to do so to get official Google apps.
They had heard Google's claims that regulation would slow the development of products and prevent them from generating the cash they need to invest in the business. Any competitive services were "one click away," it said. The senators still sided with views that there would be less competitive choices, steeper prices, and less technological advancement.