Google's ultimate test looms
Google trial against the US government is set to begin, with the tech giant accused of unfairly cementing its position as the world's go-to search engine through deals with phone-makers and web browsers.
The Google trial is seen as a landmark trial, with the potential to rein in the industry and open up opportunities for rivals.
Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google's parent company Alphabet, is expected to testify, along with executives from Apple. The government argues that Google's deals gave it an unfair data advantage, violating US competition laws.
However, Google maintains that it provides a superior product and that its deals are legal.
What does the Google trial mean for the tech industry?
The outcome of the Google trial could have significant implications for the tech industry. If the government wins, it could mean that Google is no longer automatically installed as a search engine, opening up opportunities for rivals like Microsoft's Bing or ChatGPT.
However, a government victory is not guaranteed, as Google has maintained that its deals are legal and that consumers have not been hurt.
This case is just one of several recent tangles between tech firms and the US government. In other cases, such as the effort to block Microsoft's acquisition of videogame-maker Activision Blizzard, the government has gone down in defeat.
This has led to criticism from some quarters, including Republicans who accuse the Biden administration of squandering money on cases it is sure to lose.
FTC chair Lina Khan and Jonathan Kanter, who heads anti-trust for the Department of Justice, have defended their records, pointing to wins in other industries. They also acknowledge that a tougher competition approach will mean losses in some cases.
Regulators claim progress even in cases they have lost, as they are winning some battles and losing some battles but the war is not over.
Experts' opinion on Google trial
Later this month, the FTC is expected to file a lawsuit against Amazon. Cases concerning Google's ad business and Facebook's purchase of Instagram are also on deck in the coming months. Google recently settled a lawsuit brought by US states over its app store.
Tech giants are being slowed by such battles, says Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, professor of internet governance at Oxford University.
He warns that the US is fighting "the last war" as developments in artificial intelligence put the big platforms on the back foot. Nor does he see signs that such suits will address questions - like control over data - that are likely to play big roles in determining the major players of tomorrow.
Anti-monopoly campaigner Stacy Mitchell sees courts have been slow to change, despite mounting public concern about big business and criticism of how they have judged competition disputes. But she sees the tide turning.
She admits: "I can't tell you how long it's going to take".Advertisement