Google searches for Microsoft limits
Paper says the search firm has told regulators it worries about MSN being the default for Internet Explorer.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Google has expressed concerns about competition from Microsoft in the Web search business in recent talks with the Justice Department and the European Commission, according to a published report.
The New York Times reports that Microsoft's (Research) new Internet browser includes a search box in the upper-right corner that is typically set up to send users to Microsoft's MSN search service. Google (Research) contends that this puts Microsoft in a position to unfairly grab Web traffic and advertising dollars from its competitors.
"The market favors open choice for search, and companies should compete for users based on the quality of their search services," Marissa Mayer, the vice president for search products at Google, told the Times. "We don't think it's right for Microsoft to just set the default to MSN. We believe users should choose."
The objections are similar to past anti-trust complaints against Microsoft's Windows operating system. But Microsoft executives told the paper the default settings in the browser, Internet Explorer 7, are easy to change. And it says the product was designed with consumers and many partners in mind, even though it might not be to the liking of No. 1 search engine Google.
"Whatever behavior happened in the past, the guiding principle we had is that the user is in control," Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of the Internet Explorer group, told the paper.
Mayer told the paper Google expressed its objections to Microsoft in meetings last year about its plans to set MSN as the default search engine. The Times also reports that Yahoo! (Research) raised similar objections in a meeting with Microsoft last year, citing a Yahoo employee who was briefed on the conversation.
Yahoo issued a statement to the paper saying, "We would be concerned about any company's attempts to limit user choice or change user preferences without their knowledge, and believe others would share that concern."
Microsoft unveiled a test version of Internet Explorer 7 for free downloads last week. The company still has about 85 percent of the browser market, but that is down from 88 percent a year earlier.
Google gave a lift to No. 2 browser Firefox recently, giving a link on its main search page to a page where users can download the upstart offering.
The Google homepage describes Firefox as having "tabbed browsing, safer surfing." And the Firefox version that Google links to has a Google toolbar. Another competing browser known as Opera also comes with Google set as the default, but Mayer told the paper said Google would support unfettered choice on both Firefox and Opera.
Microsoft told the Times that giving users of the new version of IE an open-ended choice could add complexity and confusion to the browser set-up process, while offering a few options would be arbitrarily limiting.
For a look at Microsoft's disappointing earnings, click here.