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Google on Microsoft's browser: A fine whine?

Lest there is any doubt, a memo by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer makes clear that the war between his company and Google is reaching new heights. And what a coincidence: One of the points of contention that is emerging between the archrivals involves allegations that Microsoft is leveraging its Web browser to shut out competition--a practice that has gotten the company in antitrust trouble for years.

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But times and circumstances have changed drastically since the Justice Department's first lawsuits against Microsoft. Back then, Microsoft's Windows was the de facto gateway to the Internet simply because of its ubiquity in personal computers: If you didn't get an icon on the operating system's desktop, you were practically nonexistent. Today, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who uses the Internet and hasn't heard of Google, icon or no icon.

So even if Microsoft is indeed up to its old tricks--using its software to steer people to its own Web properties and away from rivals--it won't be able to stifle competition nearly as effectively this way. Google is no Netscape, and it is arguably presenting Microsoft with the toughest competition it has ever faced.

Blog community response:

"If Google actually cared about user choice, they'd have asked the Mozilla Foundation to configure Firefox to prompt you to choose your favorite search engine the first time you ran it. And let's not forget about Safari, where Google is the default and it's very hard for normal people to change that. I don't know about you, but this whole 'user choice' argument smells like a double standard to me."
--Jeremy Zawodny

"Google needs to quit its whining over Microsoft's plans to include a search box in the new Internet Explorer 7, with MSN Search set as the default. 'We believe users should choose,' is that right? That philosophy didn't suit you well when you started promoting Firefox on your homepage, did it?"
--Marketing Pilgrim

"If Microsoft bundles the Hotmail client and Word with Windows, Google knows that its products have no chance of making more than a dent in Microsoft's market share. So it's better to keep the threat of Microsoft's bundling power alive now, before (the) memories of the Netscape slaughter have faded away."
--Silicon Valley Sleuth