Steve Lohr at the NY Times has the scoop:
With a $10 billion advertising market at stake, Google, the fast-rising Internet star, is raising objections to the way that it says Microsoft, the incumbent powerhouse of computing, is wielding control over Internet searching in its new Web browser.
Google, which only recently began beefing up its lobbying efforts in Washington, says it expressed concerns about competition in the Web search business in recent talks with the Justice Department and the European Commission, both of which have brought previous antitrust actions against Microsoft.
The new browser includes a search box in the upper-right corner that is typically set up to send users to Microsoft’s MSN search service. Google contends that this puts Microsoft in a position to unfairly grab Web traffic and advertising dollars from its competitors.
Microsoft has lost some ground in the browser market in the last year, mainly to Firefox, which is a Google ally. But Microsoft still holds more than 80 percent of the market. And Internet Explorer 7 is expected to be extremely popular because it is an improvement over Microsoft’s previous browser, and because Microsoft will promote downloads of it and include it in Windows Vista.
In meetings beginning last year, Google told Microsoft of its objections to the company’s plans to set MSN as the default search engine in Internet Explorer 7, according to Ms. Mayer of Google. Yahoo raised similar objections in a meeting with Microsoft last year, according to a Yahoo employee who was briefed on the conversation. Yahoo declined to comment last week beyond a statement: “We would be concerned about any company’s attempts to limit user choice or change user preferences without their knowledge, and believe others would share that concern.”
With its objections unresolved, Google took the matter to antitrust authorities in Europe and the United States during the last month. It is not clear what, if anything, will come of the talks or how far Google is willing to push the issue.
Or how far the antitrust authorities are willing to push the issue, but since finding abuses is their raison d’etre, I’m sure MIcrosoft looks like a ripe target.