In a landmark antitrust trial against Google’s parent company, Alphabet, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella testified as a witness for the US Justice Department on Monday. The government accuses Google, which holds around 90% of the search market, of using its dominant position to stifle competition and innovation to the detriment of consumers. It alleges that Google paid around $10 billion annually to smartphone manufacturers such as Apple and wireless carriers like AT&T to be the default search engine on their devices, thus maintaining its top position.
During his testimony, Nadella expressed that Microsoft could never compete with Google due to its agreements with Apple. In response to a question from a Google lawyer, Nadella stated, “You can call it popular, but to me it’s dominant.” He explained that unfair tactics employed by Google contributed to its domination as a search engine and obstructed Microsoft’s rival program, Bing. Nadella disclosed that Microsoft was even willing to conceal the Bing brand on Apple devices to secure an agreement with the tech giant. Acquiring the default spot from Apple would have been “game-changing” for Microsoft.
Nadella also criticized Google for locking up content through expensive and exclusive deals with publishers. He highlighted that tech giants are competing for vast quantities of content necessary for training artificial intelligence systems. According to Nadella, when meeting with publishers, he hears about Google’s exclusive deals and the pressure to match them: “When I am meeting with publishers now, they say Google’s going to write this check and it’s exclusive and you have to match it.”
Moreover, Nadella voiced concerns regarding Google’s ability to leverage its search dominance to manipulate content providers essential for training generative AI models. He expressed worry that this vicious cycle could worsen, stating, “I worry a lot in spite of my enthusiasm that this vicious cycle can become even more vicious.”
Nadella’s testimony sheds light on the contentious issues surrounding Google’s alleged anticompetitive practices and the impact of its dominant position in the search market. As the trial continues, it will be interesting to see how the evidence and testimonies shape the outcome and potential future regulations in the technology industry.