Google's deal to preinstall its software on Dell computers has us confused. Didn't Google complain to antitrust regulators when Microsoft did something similar in promoting its own search tools with its upcoming operating system?
Granted, the Vista operating system will be on far more computers, a dominance that Google said provides unfair leverage for Microsoft's embedded search box (The Justice Department disagreed). But the Google deal reportedly includes a co-branded home page on Dell PCs, which sure sounds like leverage to us, even though Dell says customers "will have the option of choosing Microsoft as their default if they prefer."
Details aside, the whole issue seems a bit outdated: The Microsoft "bundling" practices that got it into trouble years ago no longer have the kind of clout they once did. Back then, less-savvy consumers relied far more on desktop icons and other preloaded pointers; today, even people who don't use computers are familiar with Google and could likely to find it no matter what defaults appear on their screens. So while Google's arrangement with Dell certainly can't hurt, it might not be as important as the search company thinks--especially if it's paying up to $1 billion over three years for the privilege, as some sources speculated to the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.
Blog community response:
"So now Google is following same path which MS introduced a decade back by shipping IE with each version of Windows? I am zealous about Google products but now they have no right to raise finger on Microsoft when they continue their old dirty plan."
"Despite the fact that this deal will likely whip the anti-Microsoft hordes into a frenzy--DIE, REDMOND, DIE!--it bears noting that the terms are strikingly different than those of Microsoft's software distribution deals: Namely, the money's going the other way. Given enough capital, anyone could pay Dell to put anything on new PCs. It doesn't speak well of Google's dominance and market leverage, therefore, that it might have to pay Dell $333 million a year to install software that it is already giving away for free."
"This is shaping up to be the start of a computer interface experience that's distinctly Google-branded (rather than only incidentally through minor inroads like Toolbar and Desktop Search). The battle for the desktop has begun."