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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai took the stand in the ongoing US government antitrust trial against the tech giant this week. The trial revolves around allegations that Google illegally paid various Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), including Apple, to ensure its search engine remains the default choice on their devices and browsers.
During his testimony, Pichai staunchly defended Google’s actions and emphasized the virtues of the company’s products, notably Search, Android, and Chrome. He asserted that Search is a constantly evolving and complex product, and it will continue to evolve in the future. Pichai highlighted that these products are not only suitable for users but also beneficial for the overall health of the internet.
Sundar Pichai argued that Search, Android, and Chrome, being open-source products, facilitate increased web usage. He stated, “People use Android to build smartphones at prices as low as $30, which has helped bring hundreds of millions of people online.”
During the trial, Pichai acknowledged the significance of having Google Search as the default search engine. He emphasized that this strategy helps maintain user loyalty, and the company sees value in it.
US Justice Department lawyer Meagan Bellshaw presented an email during the trial in which Google’s Nitin Sharma shared data indicating that when users set their browser homepage to Google, they immediately conducted 15% more Google searches, while those who switched away did 27% fewer.
Sundar Pichai also pointed out that Google Search allows users to switch to an alternative search engine if they are dissatisfied with the default choice, highlighting the element of user choice. He drew comparisons with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) browser, which did not provide an option to switch search engines when it launched.
Pichai discussed Google Chrome’s development, stating that it was initiated shortly after Microsoft launched IE7. He attributed the need for Chrome to the stagnation in the browser market, with Microsoft not showing strong incentives to enhance its product. Sundar Pichai described Chrome as a “pretty dramatic improvement” when it was introduced in 2008, ultimately leading to its dominance in the market.
Google argued that people choose Chrome over competitors because it offers better search capabilities than Microsoft’s browser. The company maintained that revenue-sharing agreements in place are legal.
Recent reports suggest that Microsoft employs pop-up notifications when users download Chrome on Windows laptops, aiming to dissuade users from using alternative browsers. Microsoft also promotes its Bing AI chatbot while users explore Google’s Bard AI. Google has raised these tactics as evidence of anti-competitive behavior during the trial.
As the antitrust trial continues, the clash between Alphabet and the US government raises crucial questions about competition, consumer choice, and the future of the tech industry.