By Leah Nylen
ChatGPT and other technology innovations may have been released years ago if Google hadn’t monopolized the search market, the Justice Department told a federal court Thursday.
That “shows what real competition will do,” Dintzer told Judge Amit Mehta. “What has been going on for the past 12 years is Google has been maintaining its monopoly. Would we have seen ChatGPT six years earlier? Would we see five other competitors competing for search? Those are questions none of us can answer.”
Google’s attorney John Schmidtlein acknowledged that the agreements with Apple Inc. and smartphone manufacturers to be the default search engine give the company “an advantage,” but that doesn’t violate antitrust laws.
Schmidtlein’s comments responded to questions from Mehta about whether Google’s default status gives it an edge that competitors can’t match.
Google first entered a contract with Apple to be the default search engine on its Safari browser in 2003, when Google was one of many search engines and Apple’s Mac computers were only a small sliver of the market, Schmidtlein said. The amount of money Google pays to Apple is confidential, but is in the billions of dollars each year.
“They are paying to expose their product and make it available. Whether people switch is up to the user,” Schmidtlein said.
“They are paying billions of dollars for these defaults. Google keeps saying, ‘It’s because people want us.’ If people wanted it, they wouldn’t be paying billions of dollars,” he said.
The company should have eliminated the exclusivity provision in its contracts once it gained a monopoly, Dintzer said. That would have allowed potential rivals to bid for access points on smartphones and browsers, he said, and would have let companies like Apple or Mozilla — the maker of the Firefox browser — design their products differently to offer consumers more choices.
Mehta is expected to rule this summer. He could narrow the cases or throw them out altogether, although that outcome is unlikely given he identified several issues at Thursday’s hearing that he said would be better resolved at a trial.