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Will Google Become SoftBank-Sprint's Silent Partner?

Like most analysts, I am not persuaded by the stated rationale and synergies SoftBank has put forth to justify its acquisition of Sprint. At bottom the deal is financial engineering: balance sheet and exchange rate arbitrage; and market timing. It appears to be a financial partnership, not the stated strategic partnership.

SoftBank hopes its shareholders will imagine that the 2013 and beyond U.S. experience of a maturing wireless smart-phone market and Sprint's late-iPhone-entrant role will somehow be analogous to SoftBank's iPhone first-mover experience in 2008 Japan. That's like asserting rock-climbing uphill is analogous with sliding downhill because they both involve hills.

Bork-Sidak's Fatally Flawed Google Antitrust Defense

As an unabashed Milton Friedman conservative, I strongly agree with Judge Robert H. Bork and Professor J. Gregory Sidak that antitrust law's purpose is to protect competition and the competitive process and not to protect competitors. I also hold my fellow conservatives in highest regard. However, as a highly-experienced and esteemed judge and professor, they know they must prove their case on the merits. In Google's case, they have not.

While it would be difficult to challenge the sophistication of their legal analysis, it is not hard to discredit the sophistication of their economic analysis of the relevant market, economics, and behavior in question. Their defense indicates that they have fully-adopted Google's core economic premises and public-representations, so their skilled legal arguments can do no better than the fatally-flawed material with which Google has given them to work.

Specifically, their legal analyses rest upon a misunderstanding of the relevant market in question. Since antitrust prosecution is fact-driven, not theory dependent, no amount of legal or economic theoretical elegance can overcome a fatally-flawed factual predicate.

Google Mocks EU & FTC Antitrust Enforcement in Courting Yahoo Again -- Part 9 Google Unaccountability Series

Google is mocking EU and FTC antitrust enforcement authorities in seeking to partner (collude) again with Yahoo, its #2 competitor, at the same time Google is deep in antitrust negotiations with the EU antitrust authorities who have already concluded Google is a predatory search monopolist, and while the FTC staff is poised to potentially recommend a sweeping Section 5 antitrust case against Google for deceptive and unfair business practices.

Yesterday Google Chairman Eric Schmidt publicly reiterated that Google would love to be a search partner with Yahoo.

Either Google is somehow confident of back-room political fixes to all their antitrust enforcement troubles, or Google is mocking antitrust authorities with a cavalier "stop us if you can" attitude.

Google continues to act as if it is accountable to no one. Let's review some pertinent history and facts to put in perspective how reckless Google's behavior is in this context.

U.S. Government's Obsolete and Wasteful Spectrum Hoarding and Rationing -- My Daily Caller Op-ed

Please don't miss my latest Daily Caller op-ed: "U.S. Government's Obsolete and Wasteful Spectrum Hoarding and Rationing" here.

This is part 11 of my Obsolete Communications Law research series.

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Obsolete Communications Law Op-ed Series:

Who but Google is Thriving in Online Advertising?

Evidence abounds that the industry business model of online advertising, minus Google, is shockingly weak competitively, given how many people assume advertising is supposed to be the viable competitive monetization engine that will sustain the "free and open Internet" long term.

Anyone open to connecting-the-dots of recent public evidence will see an obvious dichotomy: Google is thriving, while much of the rest of the online advertising industry is struggling despite unprecedented: opportunity to reach users, technological efficiencies, and access to troves of private data to target ads to produce more revenue growth.

Examine the accumulating troubling evidence of how weak online advertising competition has become.

The Internet Advertising Bureau's latest reporting of 15% online advertising growth for the industry in 1Q12 masks the large Google vs. competitor revenue growth dichotomy. Given that Google grew 24% 1Q12 and comprises almost half of all U.S. online advertising per eMarketer, I calculate that the rest of the online advertising industry is growing only about 8%. That means Google is growing three times faster than its online competitors and continues to take market share at an accelerating rate.

Why FTC's $22.5m Google Privacy-Fine is Faux Accountability

If one fact-checks and puts in perspective the FTC's expected $22.5m privacy fine of Google -- for bypassing millions of Apple Safari users' privacy and security settings to add a tracking cookie to track users browsing activity -- it looks like faux FTC accountability of Google. Close scrutiny of the FTC's oversight record of Google's exceptionally bad consumer record and very long privacy rap sheet suggests that Google could have little to fear from the FTC on pending privacy or antitrust enforcement going forward, despite PR and optics to the contrary. Unfortunately, the evidence to date indicates the FTC's enforcement oversight of Google has had minimal accountability or deterrent effect on Google's behavior.

To be fair to the FTC, the FTC does not have all the legal authority it needs to fully address the Google privacy enforcement problem, but that being acknowledged, many poor FTC decisions have further self-limited the FTC's ability to confront the exceptional Google enforcement problem.

I. Google appears to enjoy faux FTC Accountability.

Google's Picking a Third Antitrust Fight in Becoming a Domain Registrar

Is anyone paying attention to the profound antitrust implications of Google applying to ICANN to become the world's largest domain registrar for Internet Taxonomy 2.0 -- the next generation of Internet addressing and classification of information? Giving the world's dominant search engine -- that is already under antitrust investigation on four continents for favoring Google content over competitors' content -- the additional market power of controlling the allocation of new keyword domain-names which Google would then index for publishers, rank for users, and monetize for advertisers, is an unquestionable conflict of interest and a recipe for more Google monopolization.

ICANN's original Internet taxonomy 1.0 involved truly "generic" top level domains as like .com, .org, .net, .gov, .edu, .mil, organized around institutional purposes and around geography to recognize sovereign nation authority like .US, .UK, .JP, .NZ, etc.

My WSJ Letter to the Editor -- Google and Microsoft Antitrust Cases are Different

Kudos to the WSJ for publishing my Letter to the Editor challenging the central assumption of the WSJ editorial questioning antitrust action against Google because consumers benefit from Google's free search. My letter pointed out a false assumption begets a false analogy and an incorrect conclusion.

The text of my letter follows:

"The conclusions of The Competition Versus Google editorial rest on the false market assumption that Google search users are customers when they are not.  Consumers using Google search pay Google nothing. Consumers are the product Google sells to advertisers and publishers. This false market assumption begets a false market analogy between the Google and Microsoft antitrust cases, because unlike Google, Microsoft's consumers were also Microsoft’s customers. Free market competition and antitrust law excel at serving customers’ market interests, which may or may not be consumers' interests. Incorrectly conflating these different interests confuses the real market forces and problems at work here."


 

Evidence FTC Tipped Google to Mobile Ad Dominance

New evidence indicates that the FTC's lax Google antitrust enforcement -- in approving Google's acquisition of AdMob with no conditions in 2009, despite FTC staff recommendations to block it as monopolistic -- have enabled Google to extend its dominance of PC search and advertising into mobile search and advertising.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths