Google’s plan to acquire ITA Software may result in an antitrust probe by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), two sources speaking to Bloomberg said Tuesday. The FTC is currently waiting for the Justice Department to render a decision on whether or not the acquisition will stifle competition among firms competing for clicks in the travel search engine market. Both the FTC and the Justice Department are capable of executing an antitrust investigation, and some pundits believe the scale of this probe could match that of the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation of Microsoft during the 1990’s. The search engine giant “could fight the FTC, but that’s going to cost a lot of money and time,” Keith Hylton, an antitrust law professor at Boston University School of Law told Bloomberg. Google also faces an antitrust probes abroad. On March 31st Microsoft filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission in regards to Google’s search operations and practices in the European Union, alleging that Google has made it harder for other firms to compete in the search market there. Google announced that it had plans to acquire ITA Software, a firm that helps airlines manage flight times and sell tickets at the best prices, in July of 2010. Google hopes to use the acquisition to create new flight search tools that will allow consumers to find better flight options and prices. More →
A federal judge has ordered Apple CEO Steve Jobs to court where he will have to answer questions pertaining to an antitrust case. Filed in 2005, the antitrust suit alleges that Apple’s iTunes service had a monopoly on the digital music downloading market. According to a Bloomberg report, the deposition of Jobs will be no longer than two hours and questions must relate only to changes Apple made to its software in 2004 that prevented RealNetworks’ music files from being played on Apple’s iPod line of devices. “The court finds that Jobs has unique, non-repetitive, firsthand knowledge about the issues at the center of the dispute over RealNetworks software,” the judge wrote in the order. Steve Jobs is currently on medical leave from Apple for an undisclosed period of time. Unlike his last leave of absence in 2009, however, Jobs is still acting as CEO during his leave and is involved with major strategic decisions. More →
Verizon Wireless CEO Daniel Mead said on Monday that the company has no interest in a merger with Sprint, a notion that had been tossed around by analysts over the weekend following news that AT&T intends to Acquire T-Mobile USA. “We’re not interested in Sprint. We don’t need them,” Mead told Reuters reporters in Florida ahead of this year’s CTIA Wireless conference. Should AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA from European telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom receive regulatory approval, AT&T would become the nation’s top wireless carrier by subscriber count. Verizon Wireless currently holds the No. 1 position, which it took from AT&T back in January 2009 when the carrier completed its acquisition of top regional carrier Alltel. AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile USA stands to create a much more substantial lead where subscriber count is concerned, however, making AT&T home to over 130 million wireless subscribers compared to Verizon Wireless’ 102 million. More →
Nokia Siemens Networks is trying to renegotiate a $1.2 billion network infrastructure assets purchase from Motorola, according to sources speaking to Bloomberg. In an effort to please Chinese authorities, which have delayed the purchase due to antitrust concerns, Nokia Siemens Networks is seeking to leave Motorola Solutions’ GSM unit out of the purchase, and adjust the deal accordingly. Chinese authorities began investigating the purchase after Huawei filed a lawsuit against Motorola in January — accusing Motorola of giving its intellectual property to Nokia Siemens. It’s unclear what the new purchase price will be with the GSM unit out of the equation. More →
Bloomberg is reporting that European Union antitrust regulators are preparing to launch an investigation aimed at concluding whether or not search giant Google “imposes exclusivity obligations on advertising partners.” Several companies, including Microsoft, are claiming that Google is preventing said partner-sites from placing ads for “competing services” on their websites. Foundem, a U.K. based price-comparison site, said Google was “stifling innovation” and that the company “should not be allowed to discriminate in favor of its own services.” In a written statement, Google explained: “There’s always going to be room for improvement and so we’ll be working with the commission to address any concerns.” The European Commission can levy fines of up to 10% of a company’s revenue for monopolistic practices. More →
Qualcomm is now at the center of a European Commission antitrust investigation, it was revealed on Thursday. Stemming from a complaint from rival chipmaker Icera, the Wall Street Journal is claiming that “the main issue appears to be over the way Qualcomm links the patents from other companies to its own patent offering to bolster its chip sales.” For its part, Qualcomm says that the new allegations are more or less the same as previous antitrust case it fended off in 2005 in which six major competitors alleged the chipmaking giant was charging too much in royalty fees and making it difficult for new entrants to break into the mobile chipset market. More →
According to a new report, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have come to an agreement that the latter will open a formal investigation into Apple’s iPhone policies. The investigation will look into whether or not Apple’s prohibiting developers from using cross-compilers is anti-competitive. It is unclear whether or not the FTC will also look at Apple’s ban of Adobe Flash on iOS devices as well as section 3.3.9 of the iOS developers agreement which blocks Google’s AdMob from serving ads on the iPhone and iPad. The Department of Justice is said to be in the preliminary stages of an investigation into whether or not Apple has an unfair advantage in digital music distribution. But for the matter at hand, the FTC faces a tough challenge with its investigation. Apple claims it is essential that iOS applications are natively developed to ensure quality and compatibility. Previous experiments with cross-compilers led to what Apple claims were inferior applications, something it fears could damage the platforms reputation for quality applications. On the other hand, many believe that Apple enjoys far too much control over its products and this creates a lack of competition which does nothing but hurt developers and consumers alike. Neither Apple nor the FTC have commented on the matter. More →
Surprise! The U.S. government is once again going to throw Apple under the microscope and investi alleged anti-competitive practices, this time for the new language Apple is using in section 3.3.9 of its developers agreement which appears to be directed straight at Google’s AdMob. This information comes to us by way of The Financial Times. This would mark the second time that federal regulators have looked at Apple relating to mobile ads and one of many other preliminary investigations. It was just yesterday that AdMob broke its silence on the matter and went on the offensive saying that Apple is putting up “artificial barriers to competition” which will only serve to “hurt users and developers and, in the long run, stall technological progress.” The question in this case appears to be whether or not Apple’s fiercely competitive tactics with iOS advertising are legal or warrant anti-trust action. More →
The U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation of Apple’s alleged anti-competitive practices has grown to include video and other forms of multimedia, the New York Post is reporting. Citing multiple sources, the Post claims that the DoJ has queried several major media companies asking whether or not they feel Apple is in a position of undue influence over their products. A similar investigation focusing on Apple’s dominance in digital music was said to have commenced earlier this week. Whether or not this will eventually lead to a full-blown antitrust lawsuit being slapped against Apple is unclear, but it seems logical that if anyone is going want to do battle with Apple it’s the tough-talking Hollywood folk. As one of the Post’s insiders said, “you can’t dictate terms to the industry.” Trust us, we know. More →
And it has happened once again. The New York Times published an interesting article this evening which alleges that the U.S. Department of Justice has kicked off another anti-trust investigation that focuses in on Apple. Unlike the other two ongoing investigations which deal with Apple’s lockout of Flash in the iPhone OS and its upcoming iAd service, this time around its Apple’s strangle-hold grip on the digital music marketplace that’s getting all of the attention. Here specifically is what the NYT said triggered the investigation.
In March, Billboard magazine reported that Amazon.com was asking music labels to give it the exclusive right to sell certain soon-to-be-released songs for one day before the songs go on sale more widely. In exchange, Amazon promised to include those songs in a promotion on Amazon’s Web site called “MP3 Daily Deal.”
Representatives from Apple’s music service, iTunes, were asking the labels not to take part in Amazon’s promotion, and Apple punished those that did by later withdrawing marketing support for those songs on iTunes, the magazine reported.
So far the Department of Justice has not proceeded past the inquiry stage, but it doesn’t exactly reflect well upon Apple that this is the third time this month the agency has poked its nose in Apple’s affairs. More →
According to The Wall Street Journal, the federal antitrust probe looking into alleged anti-competitive practices by Apple has been extended to include an investigation of Apple’s recently announced iAd service. Citing “people familiar with the matter” (natch), the WSJ reports that both the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are taking a close look at Apple’s decision to prohibit developers from extrapolating analytical data from users devices. The main concern is that Apple will effectively be able to lock out competing advertising services from the iPhone OS by making it difficult for advertisers to properly target their ads. The most recent version of the iPhone developers agreement makes it clear in section 3.3.9 that “The use of third-party software in Your Application to collect and send Device Data to a third party for processing or analysis is expressly prohibited.” Several anonymous iPhone developers as well as at least one AdMob employee were said to have discussed the matter with the FTC, as was a wireless advertising executive who was approached by the FTC in its quest to learn about what implications, if any, section 3.3.9 will have on the wireless advertising industry. At this point in time there is no guarantee Apple will actually be rung up in an antitrust suit, but the fact alone that the government is keeping such close tabs is surely not a good sign for the Cupertino company. More →
Verizon has been singing, “Give me the green light… I’m ready to go right now,” as its Alltel acquisition has finally been given the official go ahead. After receiving approval from the FCC, Verizon has finally been given the green light by the Federal Trade Commission as well. The FTC has decided to remove the biggest speed bump to the deal, its antitrust review. Although the $5.9 billion dollar merger will make Verizon and Alltel the largest wireless provider in the US combined, the FTC didn’t think there would be any antitrust issues (Verizon is, after all, divesting 100 markets in the US to comply with the FCC). Now after receiving the seal of approval from the FCC, Justice Department and FTC, Verizon is hoping to finalize the deal by late this year or early next year. Verizon surely has its work cut out for it as it’s forking over that $5.9 billion and taking on Alltel’s $22.2 billion in debt – but hey, at least Big Red can claim to be the largest network in the country now.