EU And Microsoft: Google Is Next

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Press and pundits says that now that the European Union and its courts have eviscerated Microsoft (MSFT), the next targets will be Qualcomm (QCOM) and Intel (INTC). The case against Intel is fairly simple. The charge is that it cut prices and gave incentives to PC and server companies to use its chips instead of those from rival AMD (AMD).

The Qualcomm case is bit more complex because it involves both hardware and licensing fees. Qualcomm’s largest customer, Nokia (NOK) would have the EU believe that the US company used its monopoly position in the handset chip business to overcharge for licensing. Qualcomm rival Broadcom (BRCM) simply says that Qualcomm violated its patents.

But, these cases look back more than they do forward. A glance at the horizon shows that the most powerful tech company in the world is now, or soon will be, Google (GOOG).

According to comScore, the top web property in the UK in terms of audience is Google. Ditto France. And Germany. The audience numbers do not get into search market share, but if the numbers look like the US, Google’s piece there is 60% or so and rising. Its share of the search ad market is much larger, and that means that it has de facto pricing control across the industry.

The EU seems to be so concerned about Google that it is funding a potential competitor, called Theseus.

But, there is more than one way to skin a cat. If the EU declares that Google has too much say over pricing for search ads, it can simply regulate the big search company and hope to do what Microsoft and Yahoo! (YHOO) cannot.

Douglas A. McIntyre