In the ongoing antitrust trial between the U.S. government and Google, the Justice Department’s first witness for the second week will be Brian Higgins, a senior vice president of device and consumer product marketing at Verizon. The trial, which began with discussions about the “future of the internet,” has now delved into the details of commercial agreements between Google and Android device makers.
The Justice Department argues that Google, through agreements with wireless carriers, has secured default positions on smartphones and other devices, worth approximately $10 billion annually. These agreements allegedly allowed Google to dominate the search market and drive up its own profits.
James Kolotouros, a Google executive responsible for negotiating these agreements, testified that the company pressed Android smartphone makers to have Google as the default search engine and pre-install other Google apps on their devices, reported Reuters.
Under cross-examination, Kolotouros stated that Google’s intention was to ensure that Android phones would compete with Apple’s “elegance” and provide users with a predictable experience. The antitrust trial has significant implications for the tech industry, which has faced increasing scrutiny from Congress and antitrust enforcers over allegations of stifling competition.
Google, in its defense, argues that its search engine’s popularity is due to its quality, and payments to wireless companies and others were merely compensation for partnerships. However, the trial has raised questions about user behavior regarding defaults on computers and smartphones.
Antonio Rangel, a behavioral biology professor at the California Institute of Technology, testified that people tend to stick with default search engines or map apps if they are pre-installed on their devices. This supports the argument that Google paid to be the default search engine to gain more search queries and increase advertising profits.
In response, Google’s lawyers presented data indicating that users willingly stick with Google’s search engine when it is pre-installed on their devices but switch to other search engines if they prefer them over Google. Additionally, Chris Barton, a former Google executive, testified that Google pushed for its search engine to be the default and exclusive option in revenue-sharing deals with mobile carriers and Android smartphone makers. According to Barton, if Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, was the default on an Android phone, users would have a hard time finding or changing to Google.
The trial has attracted attention from antitrust experts and industry insiders, with notable figures like Tim Wu, a former competition advisor to President Biden, attending the proceedings. However, as the week progressed, the courtroom began to have empty seats.
The outcome of this trial will have far-reaching consequences for the tech industry, as it addresses allegations of anti-competitive practices by one of the world’s largest technology companies. As the trial continues, both the government and Google will present their arguments and evidence to determine the future of competition in the digital landscape.