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The search engine wars

Bob Moon May 1, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: Think back with me to the early days, when the Internet wasn’t much to speak of and Netscape was the most popular Web browser. Until Microsoft decided it wanted a piece of the action and Netscape kind of whithered away. Something similar might be happening in the modern-day version of the browser wars. Call it the search engine wars. Microsoft versus Google. Here’s Marketplace’s Bob Moon from New York.

BOB MOON: There were hints that Google is already in Microsoft’s cross-hairs when the software giant announced two-billion dollars in new spending last week. Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund wanted to know during a conference calla€¦what’s behind the costly mobilization of Microsoft’s forces?

RICK SHERLUND: There’s something, like, really big here that I’m not sure we’ve quite put our fingers on yet. But it sounds like you’re building a Google, or building a Yahoo, inside the company.

A Microsoft executive promised there are no “Trojan horses.”

Nonetheless, Google is now complaining that the next version of Internet Explorer includes a search box that defaults to the MSN search engine, giving Microsoft an instant new share of the market.

Google is complaining to US and European authorities. But one veteran of the much-publicized antitrust case sparked by the browser wars with Netscape half a decade ago is skeptical that the Justice Department will intervene. Attorney Mary Ellen Callahan says that legal fight didn’t really stop Microsoft from exploiting its market domination:

MARY ELLEN CALLAHAN:“Even today with all we went through, in fact, I would say that it might have been a lost cause when we went through it. It is a pattern I anticipate seeing, regardless of who the competitor is, whether it’s Google or a smaller company.”

Callahan says the only thing different this time is that Microsoft might be taking on a competitor big enough to fight back.

In New York, I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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