Image by Daniel F. Pigatto via FlickrI'm reading a lot of crap opinions lately about how Google should be worried about being investigated by the DoJ over the Chrome OS deal, and that it would be unfair to MS if Google is given a pass. I call these things "crap opinions" because they aren't well thought out.
Microsoft got in trouble with the DoJ in 1991 due to alleged abuse in the OS market. There was a settlement in 1994 where MS promised not to tie other MS products to the sale of the OS. Later, in 1998, MS got in trouble for bundling Internet Explorer and using the Windows and DOS monopoly to compete in the sale of web browsers.
Whether or not you think that MS did anything demostrably wrong, you can clearly see that Microsoft's problem wasn't the tying, but the leveraging of a monopoly using tying as the instrument. Let's compare that situation with Google's Chrome OS.
Google arguably has a monopoly in search in many countries, especially the U.S. You can see in these comScore rankings that Google has a greater share of search than the other four engines listed combined. In fact, Google's almost certainly to have more than the next ten combined. Because of the fluidity of the search market (including Google's promotion of competitors like Yahoo! in search results), I don't think 60% is actually a monopoly, but I can accept for the sake of this article that there is, in fact, a monopoly in the search business.
The Chrome browser, of the other hand has a U.S. share of 2-3%, according to this StatCounter page. Since the OS hasn't been released yet, it obviously has a market share of 0%. Tying the two together doesn't leverage anything. In short, Google is legally trying to get into a new market without leveraging its monopoly position, which is perfectly legal in the U.S.
If Google starts using search to push people toward the Chrome browser or the Chrome OS, then Google will probably be in trouble, but in order to do that, Google would need to make search work well with Chrome and have limited funtionality or severe breakage with other browsers. Is Google doing that?
If you visit YouTube with IE6, you'll receive a warning (as I did when my USB thumb drive sporting Portable Apps didn't work in a classroom computer today) and be recommended to use another browser. the listed and linked optins, in order, are:
- Firefox 3.5
- Internet Explorer 8
In summary, Google is not using one monopoly as leverage in a new market, and is relatively careful about tying its monopoly product to other products. From that perspective, Google is completely safe from the kind of DoJ attacks that MS suffered so quit talking about them. On the other hand, you're still allowed to be worried about privacy and market dominance issues.