Microsoft (MSFT) Begins Year By Blasting Google (GOOG)

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) began the new year with a very unsubtle reminder to antitrust enforcers on both sides of the Atlantic that it believes that Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) routinely engages in improper anticompetitive business practices. The blog posting by Microsoft’s Vice President & Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner paid special attention to the United States, where it said “news reports have stated that the FTC may close its investigation if Google merely makes certain “voluntary commitments” to reform its behavior.”

The FTC (U.S. Federal Trade Commission) might resolve its investigation as early as next week. And as noted news, reports are generally predicting a mild wrist-slapping. So any influence over the FTC’s decision might prove helpful, and at a minimum Microsoft has prepared the ground for further complaints. The European Commission is also expected to wrap up its investigation early this year, but any resolution there is expected to involve binding legal orders.

To illustrate its concerns, Microsoft focused on Google’s activities to prevent full-featured access by Windows Phone users to YouTube, a Google subsidiary. While iPhone and Android smartphone users (whose operating systems aren’t produced by companies with search engines that compete with Google) can use richly- featured apps to access YouTube, Windows Phone users are limited to basic browser access.

Microsoft has been working with YouTube and is ready to release what it says is a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone, but Google has refused to grant permission – reportedly overriding YouTube senior executives who want Windows Phone users to have a better YouTube experience.

Microsoft claims “YouTube apps on the Android and Apple platforms were two of the most downloaded mobile applications in 2012, according to recent news reports.” If true, Google’s actions could be hurting the competitiveness of Windows Phone.

Google maintains that it isn’t engaging in improper anticompetitive behavior. And Microsoft itself has a history of often brutal competitive activities. In any case, this seems to be yet another case of tech giants generating press coverage from corporate and legal maneuvers instead of new product news.

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