After three years, a Washington, DC, judge will hear the Department of Justice’s potentially landmark antitrust case against Google. The department alleges Google struck anticompetitive deals with Apple and other companies for prime placement of its search engine, while Google contends its dominant market share is the result of a superior product. It’s the biggest tech antitrust trial since the US took on Microsoft in the 1990s: 10 weeks that could tip the balance of power online.
Microsoft’s Bing search engine is not as good as Google. Believe it or not, it seems nobody — not even Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — disputes that fact. But over hours of contentious testimony from Nadella during the landmark US v. Google antitrust trial, the reason for that inferiority became the question of the day.Read Article >
Nadella, in a dark blue suit, took the stand early Monday morning after a few minutes of scheduling updates and a delay long enough that Judge Amit Mehta asked jokingly, “Mr. Nadella didn’t go back to Seattle, did he?” But eventually, questioning began from Adam Severt, a lawyer at the Department of Justice.
- An hour-long history lesson about Microsoft’s many failures in mobile.
A huge part of Google’s defense in US v. Google is that it’s not illegal to build a great product. And to prove that that’s all that’s happening here, Google lawyer John Schmidtlein has spent the last 60 minutes reminding Satya Nadella of Microsoft’s decades of bad decisions about Internet Explorer, Live Search, Windows Phone, and all its other browser and mobile screwups. He even has an internal poll that is headlined: “Our Mobile Story Sucks.”
Nadella is mostly just responding “that sounds right” and “correct.” He’s not arguing that Bing is better than Google — he’s arguing that it’s impossible to be better than Google. And Schmidtlein says no, it’s just that Bing sucks. And that’s your fault, not ours.
- Microsoft doesn’t think AI is going to upend search competition – it thinks it could get even more locked-down.
One recurring theme in Satya Nadella’s US v. Google testimony is his fear that the AI revolution could make it even harder for upstart search engines to compete. He worries publishers will sign exclusive deals that let Google use their data to train its models — meaning no one else can crawl that data.
“I worry that this vicious cycle I’m trapped in,” Nadella said about a world in which Google can dominate by outspending rivals to prevent anyone else from building a better product, “is only going to get more vicious.”
- Satya Nadella says Bing was prepared to lose billions just to be Apple’s search default.
We’re about 90 minutes into Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s testimony, and his stance so far has been simple: Google’s status as the default search engine has crushed Bing not just as a business, but as a product. Without scale and user data, he said, there’s just no keeping up.
Nadella also said he was prepared to give Apple all of the economic upside of a search deal if it made Bing the default. And he estimated that might cost Microsoft as much as $15 billion a year — but it’d be worth it to make Bing a bigger and more competitive product, he said.
- Good morning from DC District Court!
I’m in the building for another day of US v. Google, the big antitrust search trial. On the docket today: Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, who I incidentally ran into in the security line. I suspect he’ll be asked a lot of questions about Bing, selling Bing to Apple, Bing AI, “making Google dance,” and more. Word in the hallway is we’re likely to be in open court most of the day, too.
I also just learned who’s up after Nadella: Sridhar Ramaswamy, the former head of ads at Google and the CEO of Neeva, the search engine that says it died at the hands of Google’s monopoly. Gonna be a wild day, friends!
Sep 30One of the documents Google wanted hidden in its trial compared the search ads business to “cigarettes or drugs.”
Bloomberg reported yesterday that the “embarrassing” document that Judge Amit Mehta referenced when allowing the DOJ to post documents from the Google Antitrust trial was from a “mock” training session.
In it, Michael Roszak, Google’s VP of finance, reportedly called search ads one of the “greatest business models ever created” and likened it to “illicit businesses (cigarettes or drugs).”
Sep 29Satya Nadella is testifying in US v. Google next week.
The Microsoft CEO’s testimony will follow extensive questions this week about the company’s dealings with Apple and its struggle to get Bing on the iPhone, apparently including floating a sale of the search engine to Apple. And after a week of locked-down testimony, Judge Amit Mehta has directed as much of it as possible to take place in public session.
The Justice Department can post exhibits from the US v. Google antitrust trial online once they’ve been shown in court, Judge Amit Mehta ruled late yesterday. Bloomberg reports that after a week of discussion between Google and the Justice Department, the department agreed to notify Google of documents it plans to post; Google will have until 9PM ET each day to dispute their release, and the department should address their objections by the next business day. “I would like both sides to be in a position to post as soon as it is reasonable to do so,” Mehta said.Read Article >
The decision should see the return of files that were pulled down last week after Google complained about the Justice Department hosting them online. The two parties have argued extensively over what should be shown to the public during the trial, with Google alleging that the Justice Department could expose sensitive details about its business or produce “clickbait” by airing presentations and emails from the company. The trial has taken place under a veil of unusual secrecy, with much witness testimony closed to the public.
Eddy Cue, in a dark suit, peered down at the monitor in front of him. The screens in the Washington, DC, courtroom had briefly malfunctioned and left witnesses with only binders, but now the tech was up and running — showing an image of three iPhones, each demonstrating a part of the phone’s setup process. Cue squinted down at the screen.Read Article >
“The resolution on this is terrible,” he said. “You should get a Mac.” That got some laughs in an otherwise staid and quiet courtroom. Judge Amit Mehta, presiding over the case, leaned into his microphone and responded, “If Apple would like to make a donation…” That got even bigger laughs. Then everybody got back down to business.
- Would Safari have been popular without its Google integration?
Google certainly doesn’t seem to think so. In his questioning of Apple’s Eddy Cue this afternoon, Google’s John Schmidtlein took Cue on a journey through Safari history, and Cue said that Safari’s integration of a search box and URL bar was part of what made the browser worked. And that only worked because Google was there — or so the argument goes.
Also, Cue dropped a classic Apple Reality Distortion Field line: “One of the benefits that Google gets from Apple is that we’re telling the world Google is the best search engine, because that’s what customers expect us to pick.”
- Should Apple add a search engine choice screen to the iPhone setup process?
Apple’s agreement with Google doesn’t allow for that, Apple’s Eddy Cue said in court. And Cue said he doesn’t want to do it anyway: “we try to get people up and running as fast as possible.” But the DOJ is showing exhibits about all the “Ask App Not To Track” screens you see, and the Appearance settings in setup, and more. Their question is: for something as important as search, shouldn’t you let people choose for themselves?
Cue, again, says no. “We pick the best one and let users easily change it,” is his approach. And he says that’s Apple doing right by customers.
- Apple’s Eddy Cue says there’s really no “valid alternative to Google.”
We finally got into open court in US v. Google! For the last 45 minutes or so we’ve been listening to Cue talk about the deal he and Sundar Pichai negotiated in 2016 to keep Google as the default search engine on Apple devices. So far, Cue’s stance is simple: Google is the best search engine, so Apple picked it. He says Apple never seriously thought about ditching Google for another provider, or building its own search engine.
The DOJ appears to be walking Cue toward to a privacy question: if you’re so worried about user privacy, shouldn’t you tell people how much Google tracks them and let them opt out? But before we could get there, we took a break. Back at it in a few.
- The US v. Google court is starting in closed session today. Again.
Today’s testimony was set to start at 9:30 this morning. At 9:28, we were told to get out of the courtroom, because this morning was beginning as a closed session. Everything about this trial so far has been unusually, frankly bizarrely , frankly bizasecretive and under wraps — the reporters in the hallway with me are all betting that we’re going to be let in for five minutes at the end of the day, just to hear the plan for tomorrow that we won’t get to see either. Who knows!
- Today’s an important day in US v. Google.
I’m writing this from just outside the courtroom in DC, where Apple’s Eddy Cue is set to testify today about Apple’s billion-dollar deal to make Google its default search engine. Bloomberg reports that Cue is planning to say Apple doesn’t need to build its own search, because Google is great — but I suspect the DOJ is going to have lots of questions about that.
This deal is a huge financial win for Apple, and a crucial way for Google to maintain its market share. Today’s testimony could be a bellwether for much of what’s to come.
Apple senior vice president of services Eddy Cue is set to testify at the US v. Google antitrust trial on Tuesday, as the trial enters its third week. Cue is expected to argue that Google is Apple’s default search engine because it’s the best option, according to Bloomberg.Read Article >
Cue’s presence, which Apple fought to avoid, underscores Apple’s importance to the Justice Department’s case against Google — which alleges that the company’s juggernaut search engine violates antitrust law. News of Cue’s scheduling was posted by Bloomberg’s Leah Nylen and Big Tech on Trial on X, formerly Twitter.
Sep 22The Google antitrust trial is still maddeningly locked-down.
It is frankly shameful that Judge Amit Mehta still hasn’t ruled on opening up access to documents in this industry-shaking trial, let alone made it clear when any of the trial itself would be open to the public. Today, Apple’s John Giannandrea testified in closed court while reporters waited outside with no communication from the court at all. Ridiculous.
- Clickbait? In my antitrust trial?
Google says it’s more likely than you think! The company is still fighting with the DOJ over whether to admit a potentially “embarrassing” document into evidence — the one that led to public records of the trial getting pulled off the internet. Mehta says he’ll rule on admitting the document tomorrow.
And that’s right, it sounds like we also still don’t know if the Justice Department will be allowed to resume posting exhibits online. But we got some testimony from DuckDuckGo’s CEO on the company’s travails competing with Google.
The already locked-down US v. Google antitrust trial got a little more restricted earlier this week — when Judge Amit Mehta, following a complaint from Google, chided the Department of Justice for posting exhibits from the trial online without notifying him first. These documents are, for all intents and purposes, public: they were viewable in court and will likely be entered into public records, something Mehta acknowledged. Unlike in the recent FTC v. Microsoft debacle, there’s no evidence of failed redactions that reveal bombshell details about a company, although the parties have argued over exhibits Google deems irrelevant.Read Article >
Bloomberg’s Leah Nylen, who argued for access to the documents in court, has the full write-up of what happened Tuesday and what didn’t happen (a ruling on the future of the documents, as promised by Judge Mehta) on Wednesday. As she notes, it’s part of an ongoing limitation of how much the public can see of US v. Google, a trial that could decide the future of Google’s search juggernaut. Much of yesterday’s testimony took place in a closed session, during which reporters and the public were not allowed in court at all. Google has declined to comment on the record about the documents’ removal to The Verge, and the Justice Department has not returned requests for comment.
- Okay, can we see Google trial documents or not?
It’s the end of a locked-down day in US v. Google, culminating in some discussion of a yet-unviewed document at the center of a dispute between the two parties. And apparently we still don’t know if the Justice Department will be allowed to post exhibits from the trial (which, let’s reiterate, are public records) online. Frustrating!
- Will US v. Google evidence stay public? We still don’t know.
Per Bloomberg’s Leah Nylen, there’s been “no word” on whether the Justice Department can keep posting exhibits online as they’re introduced in court.
The Justice Department has removed access to publicly posted trial documents in US v. Google amid a dispute over how files should be made available online, according to reporter Leah Nylen of Bloomberg. Nylen, reporting from the courtroom, said that Judge Amit Mehta will make a decision in the morning on future online access to exhibits.Read Article >
The Big Tech On Trial newsletter reported more details of the exchange, which apparently occurred during an exchange between the Justice Department and Google over whether an exhibit could be submitted as evidence. Google’s attorneys apparently raised the fact that the Justice Department had been posting documents online, a fact Mehta said he hadn’t been aware of. (The Verge has linked to the now-removed page in previous trial coverage.) Big Tech On Trial reports that Mehta said he isn’t necessarily opposed to the documents being posted and that the Justice Department offered to notify Google of what it planned to post in advance, potentially averting future conflict.
As the second week of the US v. Google antitrust trial gets underway, the Department of Justice is focusing on the real moneymaker behind Google Search: ads. It alleges that Google’s dominance lets it raise prices for advertisers with few repercussions — a claim backed up by Google ads executive Jerry Dischler on the stand.Read Article >
Bloomberg’s Leah Nylen has the details of Dischler’s testimony, where he describes statements he made under oath in 2020. Dischler says Google tweaks its auction process in ways that may have raised prices in the past by 5 percent for the typical advertiser and could potentially have raised them by 10 percent for some queries. The parties buying the ads would have been unaware of these “tunings” of prices; “we tend not to tell advertisers about pricing changes,” Dischler said.
Sep 18US v. Google, Week Two begins.
Here’s the list of expected witnesses for the day as week two for this trial between the DOJ and Google kicks off, starting at 9:30AM ET:
• Verizon executive Brian Higgins, who will likely be questioned about Google’s exclusivity deals on Android. (This may take place in a closed court session.)
• Google vice president and general manager of ads Jerry Dischler. Dischler has worked at Google since 2005, so there’s a lot of history to go over.
• Former Google financial analyst John Yoo. Yoo’s LinkedIn bio describes his work as “research and analytics to structure and scale some of Google’s largest commercial deals meant to drive distribution and usage of Google’s services” on Android, among other tasks. He joined the company in 2016 and left in March of 2023.
Google is one of the biggest tech companies in existence, but its empire is built on one little white search bar, and the US Justice Department has just launched what might be one of the biggest challenges it’s ever faced. In one of the largest antitrust trials in recent memory, the government argues that Google owes its dominance not simply to a good design but to a series of coercive deals that have let the search engine market stagnate — while Google complains it’s being punished for success.Read Article >
For all that, the trial began quietly. I got to the courthouse around sunrise for the start of US v. Google, worried I’d find a line around the corner. Instead, the sidewalk was nearly empty, populated by a handful of similarly cautious early arrivals. “I thought there’d be more people,” one said while we waited in the muggy DC air. In the hours that followed, a small crowd emerged — filling the courtroom and spilling into an overflow room and two dedicated media rooms for journalists. A man in an Uncle Pennybags-style top hat, fake mustache, and monocle wandered the halls of the courtroom; “I’m here to highlight Google’s monopoly and provide moral support as a fellow billionaire,” he told me between mustache twirls. He admitted he might not be there to keep up the joke every day — it’s a 10-week trial, he conceded, and “I have a job.”
Sep 12Breaking down the Google antitrust trial.
The first day of US v. Google has wrapped up (with a blow-by-blow readthrough of an email argument from 2009, which I don’t think Google’s lawyers found as funny as I did), and I’m headed back to New York — I’ll have more details tomorrow.
For now, if you’d like an overview of what this whole case is about, I appeared on Today, Explained to... well, do exactly what the podcast’s name suggests.