Skip to main content

Ballmer calls Google a 'monopoly' that authorities should control

Ballmer calls Google a 'monopoly' that authorities should control

Share this story

Steve Ballmer stock
Steve Ballmer stock

Microsoft unveiled its new Bing logo and design this week, and yesterday CEO Steve Ballmer opted to highlight his concerns over Google's business practices. During a presentation at Microsoft's financial analysts meeting, Ballmer discussed how Microsoft might generate money in consumer services. "Google does it," he noted. "They have this incredible, amazing, dare I say monopoly that we are the only person left on the planet trying to compete with." Asked by an analyst how Microsoft can attack Google's dominance in search and advertising, Ballmer explained "we're the only guys in the world trying," with the Bing search engine.

Bing now accounts for 17.9 percent of search share in the US, second only to Google at nearly 67 percent. Although Bing's market share has slowly grown in the US over the past two years, it has largely been at the expense of other competitors like Yahoo and AOL rather than Google itself. Ballmer acknowledges it's an uphill struggle. "So if we have exactly the same quality of algorithms, but a lot less scale in search advertising, we will get less revenue per search than Google does, which means they have more money to pay for distribution on Samsung devices, or Apple," says Ballmer. "So we have to generate volume in order to step up."

Ballmer is clearly frustrated by Google

Before continuing to talk about scaling Bing, Ballmer paused to discuss his frustrations with Google. "I do believe that Google's practices are worthy of discussion with competition authority, and we have certainly discussed them with competition authorities," said Ballmer. "I don't think their practices are getting less meritorious of discussion." Microsoft has tried to highlight some of what it describes as Google's bad practices in a series of "Scroogled" campaigns, but the ads have had a mixed reaction.

After its own troubles in the US and Europe, Microsoft is participating in a case against Google in Europe. Fair Search, which includes Microsoft, Nokia, and others, is attempting to force Google to change how search results are displayed. The case centers on concerns around how Google displays its own specialized search services alongside those of its competitors. Google proposed some changes recently, but the EU rejected them and called for a better alternative. In the US, similar concerns resulted in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that Microsoft described as "weak" and "unusual."

"I think they need pressure from competition authority. I think they need pressure in the marketplace."

Ballmer says Microsoft has chosen to highlight "the bundling that they're doing with YouTube and Google Maps and some other things." Recently, Microsoft and Google have been fighting over a YouTube app for Windows Phone. Google wants Microsoft to build the app using HTML5 standards it doesn't use for its own native apps on iOS and Android, and Microsoft is pushing for a native app for Windows Phone. After Microsoft built its own app, Google blocked it and prevented it from accessing the video service. Ballmer didn't dig into his concerns over YouTube or Google Maps, but he made Microsoft's opinion very clear. "I think they need pressure from competition authority. I think they need pressure in the marketplace."

As for Bing's attempt to pressure Google in the marketplace, Ballmer didn't explain Microsoft's exact plans, but he did point to the Siri partnership with Apple as a good example. "That advertising marketplace right now, Google has pretty well defensed," he said. "But I think we've got a pretty good attack strategy. It will take a little bit more time, and a little bit more patience. I think it will have great economic return for our shareholders, and at the same time changes a lot of the competitive dynamics overall between our companies."