I’m not comfortable discussing the contents of that meeting.

Russell Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president for Kindle content, in federal court when asked about a meeting that took place at Jeff Bezos’ Seattle boathouse on Sunday Jan. 24, 2010. 

That was a few days before the initial iPad announcement — where, of course, iBooks was also unveiled, kicking off the eBooks situation for which Apple is now on trial.

One important thing noted by Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

Several readers have asked how a witness under oath could get away with not answering a direct question. You’d be amazed at how much evidence in this case has been redacted because it contained trade secrets, business data, privileged conversations with attorneys etc.. Apparently Apple’s lawyer had been told in advance that there were Amazon lawyers present at the meeting in the boathouse, and he backed off as soon as Grandinetti declined to discuss what was said there.

If Grandinetti won’t talk about it because lawyers were present in the boathouse, that’s just about the worst way possible to phrase that.

smullllllllen asked:

I feel like your take on the Apple anti-trust situation misses the point. Having a monopoly is never itself a crime. Apple formed a collusive trust with the intent of disadvantaging consumers. Amazon may have a virtual monopoly, but it has only ever abused that position in a way that disadvantages itself (by selling books below cost) in order to benefit consumers (in the short run). Maybe predatory pricing like that should be illegal, but colluding to raise consumer prices is far, far worse.

All very fair points — if Apple is found to have colluded here.

And, just to be clear, I don’t disagree — I simply meant to point out what a strange antitrust trial this would be, given where the monopoly resides in this case.

A year in the making, one of the stranger antitrust cases you’re likely to see (because the defendant, Apple, doesn’t have anything close to a monopoly in the industry in question, eBooks — while the company that stands to gain the most from an Apple defeat, Amazon, basically does).

This all plays out starting tomorrow.

Update: For a little more clarity.

Compelling stuff from Tony Romm for Politico:

To start, Google quickly hired 12 lobbying firms, a decision that contributed to the estimated $25 million the company, along with its purchased subsidiary, Motorola Mobility, accumulated to influence Washington decision makers over the life of the FTC’s probe.

I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m mainly on Google’s side here and I think the FTC was right not to go down the antitrust road — at least not yet. Google wins search because it’s the best at it. I think companies like Yelp have some legitimate gripes. But others like Microsoft, which has its own search engine, should compete by making a better product, not by hoping the government goes after Google.

Also, this is hardly the last we’re going to hear of this. Just because the FTC isn’t pursuing antitrust action against Google right now, it doesn’t mean they can’t in six months or a year or two years. This will all be looked into again and again and again. And it should be, as Google keeps getting into more and more businesses. Their search monopoly is legit, but it shouldn’t be allowed to unnaturally bolster other products that aren’t worthy — cough Google+ cough.

Sara Forden for Bloomberg:

Google Inc. should be sued by the Federal Trade Commission for trying to block competitors’ access to key smartphone-technology patents in violation of antitrust law, the agency’s staff told commissioners in a formal recommendation, according to four people familiar with the matter.

In making excuses for the ridiculous $13 billion Motorola deal, many are quick to point out all the valuable patents Google obtained. Sure. And now those very patents are pushing them towards an antitrust case with the U.S. government. This deal is the gift that keeps on giving.

Sara Forden for Bloomberg:

Plans for the depositions come as the Federal Trade Commission speeds up its antitrust probe of operator of the world’s most popular Internet search engine. Jon Leibowitz, the agency’s chairman, said June 6 that he expects to complete the investigation by the end of the year. The FTC will then decide whether to sue Google.

As I said earlier, this is going to be the new norm for Google.

Some people seem a little confused as to what the big deal is about Search+. This post by Danny Sullivan highlights exactly what the big deal is. 

Google is using Google Search, a property with which they have a (natural) monopoly, to heavily juice Google+, a property which is late to the social game and has many prominent rivals, notably Facebook and Twitter. 

Google is trying to spin it that they don’t have access to Facebook and Twitter data, but that’s not exactly true. They have all they need to populate the Google+ Juice Box (the People and Pages box situated in the right column of Search+). But they’re not doing it. 

And this affects by logged in and logged out users. What’s insane is that Google apparently thinks this is fine.

Twitter Keeps Right On Responding To Search+

Yesterday, Alexander Macgillivray, Twitter’s general counsel, wasted little time in speaking out against Google+ being fully baked into Google Search — even before Twitter officially did on the record. Today he’s elaborating a bit. Why doesn’t the ex-Google employee like Search+? This is why:

Yep, that is total bullshit. Especially since Google could easily surface and showcase the Twitter profile for WWE. They’re choosing not to. This has nothing to do with a data deal blocking their access. They have access to that information. It’s in their index right now.

Serious, simple question for Google: what do you think a user is searching for when they search for “@wwe”?

You know, I know, we all know. So why aren’t you showing it?

Google Is “Surprised” That Twitter Is “Concerned”

Just to give everyone their fair airtime, here’s Google’s response to Twitter’s response to Google’s announcement about Search+. Naturally, this was posted to Google+:

We are a bit surprised by Twitter’s comments about Search plus Your World, because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer (http://goo.gl/chKwi), and since then we have observed their rel=nofollow instructions.

As far as I know, this is the first time that Google (or Twitter) has publicly given any details as to why the tweet search deal was not renewed — “they chose not to renew their agreement with us”, which reads suspiciously like “fuck you, Twitter”. 

I’ll ask Twitter to comment on Google’s response to Twitter’s response to Google.

[via Mathew Ingram on Twitter]

Twitter Responds To Antitrust+

And out come the knives for Google’s forthcoming search changes that push Google+.

The only words you really need to know in the statement below emailed to me by Twitter: “We’re concerned”…

For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet. 

Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results.

We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.

We’ll see if Facebook responds as well. I’m sure they’re having the disucssion right now as to whether they should ignore this or take their shot. The problem they have is the relationship with Microsoft for Bing social search — but that’s different, it’s an agreement between two independent companies (though Microsoft owns a small share of Facebook via the investment a few years back).

Microsoft is likely in a similar boat. They probably want to say something but they have to think about their Facebook deal — and they have a Twitter deal too. Yahoo may respond, but will anyone really care? I’m sorry, but it’s true.

Meanwhile, look for a Google response to the Twitter response to the Google move…

Update: Sure enough, here’s Google’s response


Given my post last night, this will probably sound like piling on. But I’m sorry, it’s the first thing that comes to mind. I don’t see how it can’t.

How on Earth is Google going to avoid antitrust inquiries with their new Search+ features announced today? If Facebook, Twitter, etc, have any decent presence in DC, the ball began rolling a few hours ago.

This is the type of case that Senators die for. Google wrapped it in a bow and placed it in one of their laps.

Most of the broader antitrust concerns against Google are bullshit in my opinion. You can argue that they have a monopoly on search, but it’s a natural one. They’ve earned it. They’re simply better at search than their competitors. This has always been true. It remains true.

But when they use that natural monopoly to start pushing into other verticals, things get gray. Travel, restaurant reviews, etc, etc. We see more of it each year. 

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