In 2011, Eric Schmidt christened Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook the “gang of four” — calling them the most dominant companies in consumer technology. The Google chairman dismissed Microsoft at the time, saying it’s “not driving the consumer revolution in the minds of the consumers.”
Notably, none of these companies are based in Europe.
Worse yet, Microsoft — hit with $2.34 billion in antitrust-related fines in the EU over the past decade — bought Nokia’s handset business last year in a crushing blow to European pride. And Spotify is the closest that Europe has come to producing its own consumer technology megacorp four years after Schmidt's remarks.
The EU’s not about to let a bunch of Yanks ride roughshod over its member states. Today’s antitrust actions against Google are just part of its plan to create a “level playing field for all digital companies.” Europe’s also reining in tax sanctuaries exploited by US multinationals and rejigging privacy rules related to the handling of consumer data beyond its borders. Each initiative is clearly targeted at the gang of four+.
The US president is not at all pleased by this, classifying the moves as protectionist in a statement made in February:
“We have owned the internet. Our companies have created it, expanded it, perfected it in ways that they can’t compete. And oftentimes what is portrayed as high-minded positions on issues sometimes is just designed to carve out some of their commercial interests.”
Whatever side you take, the reality is clear: global competition is ruled by law and the game has now changed in Europe.
Five stories to start your day
The European Union has formally accused Google of illegal, monopolistic practices, stating that the American company abused its position as market leader by prioritizing its own services in search results and diverting traffic away from its competitors. The company could be fined up to 10 percent of its yearly earnings or as much as $6 billion.
"The investigation will focus on whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused a possible dominant position in the field of operating systems, applications and services for smart mobile devices," says the Commission.
Today's SpaceX rocket launch brought both good news and bad for the private space travel company. The event marked the firm's sixth successful resupply mission to the International Space Station, but also its second failed attempt to land a reusable Falcon 9 rocket on a barge at sea.
An iPad owned by Pope Francis sold for $30,500 at a charity auction in Uruguay this week. As Reuters reports, the tablet was purchased by an unidentified buyer who placed the winning bid over the phone. Proceeds from the sale will go to a local school for the poor.
Segway's ownership has changed hands over the years, as the company struggled to make profits. In 2009, it was sold to a group led by British millionaire Jimi Heselden, who died after riding a Segway off a cliff in 2010.