Schmidt to senators: Google is no Microsoft

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt testifies to a senate subcommittee on antitrust that the search giant learned the lessons from the software giant's tangle with trustbusters a decade ago.

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt began his testimony to the Senate Judiciary subcommittee that focuses on antitrust recalling a ghost of the committee's past: Microsoft.

Google's Eric Schmidt testifying before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on antitrust. Screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

Schmidt never actually mentioned its arch rival. But it's clear the software giant was top of mind as he delivered his opening remarks.

"Twenty years ago, a large technology firm was setting the world on fire. Its software was on nearly every computer. Its name was synonymous with innovation," Schmidt told senators. "But that company lost sight of what mattered. Then Washington stepped in."

Of course, that's a reference to Microsoft's pitched battle with trustbusters in the late 1990s and early into the 2000s. Those battles led the Department of Justice to sue in an ultimately failed attempt to break the company apart.

Schmidt recalled serving as an executive at two companies that competed with Microsoft at the time, Sun Microsystems and Novell. That history has helped Google work hard to avoid becoming another Microsoft.

"I'm here today carrying a long history in the technology business and a very short message about our company: we get it," Schmidt said. "By that I mean that we get the lessons of our corporate predecessors."

And Schmidt asked senators to not judge Google by recalling Microsoft's early battle. The Internet is open, unlike a computer operating system. And customers can simply click on another site to try a rival's service, Schmidt said.

"I ask you to remember that not all companies are cut from the same cloth, and that one company's past need not be another's future," Schmidt said.

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