Ex-Samsung executive says that Google prevented expansion of Branch's search app

Oct 6, 2023

More details have surfaced from the Google antitrust trial. A former Samsung executive testified that the Alphabet-owned company had prevented the expansion of a mobile search app made by Branch Metrics.

The name may sound familiar to you. Remember the company that acquired the popular Nova Launcher app and Sesame Search? Yes, it is the same Branch Metrics that we are talking about.

Former Samsung executive says that Google stifled the functions offered by Branch Search

Patrick Chang, who worked at Samsung Next, stated that he wanted Samsung to improve the capabilities offered by Branch's app. In case you aren't aware, Branch Search is capable of searching within apps. Samsung wanted it to do more, but apparently Google didn't like this. This wasn't the only issue, Chang told the court, that wireless carriers like AT&T were also unhappy with Samsung's search expansion, because they had their own agreements with Google.

Reuters reports that Alexander Austin, the co-founder and ex-CEO of Branch Metrics had testified last month that Google had complained about Branch's software functions, while the company was in talks with wireless carries and other smartphone makers. He said that Branch's Search had to be restricted within apps, and not linked to the web. In other words, Google didn't want Branch to expand to its turf, i.e. as a web search engine.

The Department of Justice has accused Google of cutting deals with smartphone makers, wireless carriers, to make its search engine the default. The Silicon Valley giant allegedly pays $10 billion a year to its partners, based on revenue share agreements, in exchange for using its software. The antitrust regulator says these tactics stifle the competition, and helps the company maintain its monopoly in search. The DoJ produced a copy of an email dated August 2020, in which Samsung executive, David Eun, had said that "Google is clearly buying its way to squelch competitors."

Google's attorneys played it smart when cross-examining Chang, who stated that Branch's software was clunky, and that few users interacted with the links it offered. This may have caused Samsung to lose focus on Branch. This isn't surprising, Google's legal team has been arguing that its services are the best in the business, and has been painting the services offered by its rivals as inferior. It even made Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, admit that Bing is not as good as Google. Apple defended Google in the Court, calling it the best option for users, though of course it has other reasons to do so. Everyone knows that the Cupertino company cashes in a cool $8 billion every year from the latter just to have it as the default search engine in Safari on iPhone, iPad and Mac, this is one of the reasons why Apple has not bothered to create its own search engine.

If your search engine is really the best, why bother offering billions of dollars to Apple, Samsung, Mobile Carriers, etc.? Surely, users will be aware of Google's quality and would be willing to switch to it as the default search engine on their own, right? No, that's because users don't usually switch defaults, as Nadella rightly pointed out during his testimony. The CEOs of DuckDuckGo and Neeva had also testified that it was nearly impossible to compete with Google, if it is the default search engine offered to users. DuckDuckGo had failed to convince Apple to switch to its search as the default for private browsing mode. Microsoft tried to sell Bing to Apple, but the talks were unsuccessful.

Ex-Samsung executive says that Google prevented expansion of Branch's search app
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Ex-Samsung executive says that Google prevented expansion of Branch's search app
Former Samsung executive says that Google was not happy with the expansion of Branch's search app.
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