Google chief executive Sundar Pichai testifies in landmark antitrust deal that could force company to change business practices
Google on Monday began its defence in a landmark antitrust trial with the US Department of Justice with testimony from chief executive Sundar Pichai, who criticised Microsoft’s web browser and called Google’s Chrome a “pretty dramatic improvement”.
The Justice Department is seeking to prove that Google acted illegally with business practices designed to preserve its top position in search and some aspects of online advertising, while Google argues people choose to use its products because they are the best.
Pichai testified that before the introduction of Chrome “the browser market at the time had kind of stagnated” and that Microsoft “were not that incented to improve the browser”.
When Chrome launched in 2008 it was a “pretty dramatic improvement”, he said.
He said Google made it easy to change the default Chrome search engine from Google to alternatives from third parties.
Google is expected to ask Pichai to speak about the company’s investments to maintain its dominance, especially with the rise of the smartphone era, and its innovation in search advertising.
The government’s cross-examination is expected to touch on the billions paid annually to companies such as iPhone maker Apple and wireless carrier AT&T to remain the default search engine on their devices.
Pichai has been a key player in those deals, and was the lead negotiator in renewing Google’s deal with Apple in 2016.
Google has argued the revenue-sharing agreements are legal and that it has invested heavily in keeping its search and advertising businesses competitive.
The case is the first major tech monopoly case to come to trial in decades and the first since the advent of the modern internet.
The last major tech monopoly case was that of Microsoft in 1998, which ended in a settlement that forced the company to change some business practices.
Over the past few weeks the government brought about 30 witnesses to testify, including top executives from Apple and Microsoft.