Google CEO Sundar Pichai has testified in the Google antitrust trial


Washington
CNN

Google CEO Sundar Pichai took the stand Monday to defend the search giant in the largest technology antitrust trial since the 1990s Microsoft lawsuit, marking the culmination of a weeks-long effort by the U.S. government to prove that Google has an illegal monopoly on the online search market. .

Called a star witness by Google, Pichai opened his testimony in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, recounting his journey to Google from Chennai, India, and his path to becoming the tech company’s CEO in 2015.

Standing on stage in a dark suit, crisp white shirt and gray tie, Pichai described how Google’s investments in Chrome, its proprietary web browser, has led to faster users’ experiences on popular websites and more Google searches.

The lesson of history is central to Google’s defense, that the company owes its search dominance to people who like Google because it’s better, not because it behaved illegally to acquire and protect a monopoly.

Pichai testified that by making Google’s search engine a seamless part of the Chrome browser, providing users with a minimal design, and creating more space in the browser window for search results and web content, Google hopes to increase search usage.

“The connection was very clear to see,” Pichai said, before presenting an internal email from Google lawyer John Schmittlin from 2010 showing research showing that users who switched from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer performed 48% more Google searches. Users of Mozilla’s Firefox browser who switched to Chrome did 27% more searches on Google, the email said.

Pichai’s testimony reflects Google’s attempt to refute claims by rivals, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. testified last month Google has cornered the competition in search and threatens to dominate the artificial intelligence field by training its large language models on the search query data it controls.

The US government’s lawsuit against Google focuses on the company’s web of deals that make its search engine the default on millions of devices and browsers around the world. Google has paid Apple more than $10 billion a year to default on Apple devices and software. In 2021, Google paid $26.3 billion to get default deals with its partners around the world, according to a slide introduced at trial last week.

Google pays Apple more in search-default fees than it pays any other Android handset maker for search distribution, Pichai acknowledged, but “a big part of the difference” is that Google has separate deals with Android smartphone manufacturers and telecom carriers. “It’s both [original equipment manufacturer] They have control over their communication channels,” he testified.

If it’s as easy as Google says it is for users to switch search providers, why Google is paying such huge sums to Apple and other search distribution partners has been a key question throughout the trial.

Asked the question point-blank by Google’s own advocates, Pichai didn’t shy away from acknowledging the connection between a search engine’s default position and increased volume.

“We know that making it the default will lead to increased usage of our products and services. It has clear value with Google’s distribution agreements, and that’s what we want to do.”

As Google renegotiated its lucrative and notoriously opaque deal with Apple for years — in 2016 and 2021 — Google moved to control how Apple could handle its users’ search queries on its products, Pichai testified. Google feared that Apple might decide to send some search queries to Amazon, for example, because Apple would choose which queries Google would try to answer through Apple’s own search technology.

Reflecting on his talks with Apple’s head of services Eddy Cue in 2016, Pichai said, “When we were considering a long-term contract, we wanted to make sure that the concept of default was implemented in the same way.”

Later in Beggar’s testimony, the Justice Department sought to draw contrasts between Google’s strong desire to be the default search engine for millions of Internet users, on the one hand, and its vocal objections to Microsoft’s appearance of effectively making Bing the default search engine in Internet Explorer.

That year, Google sent Microsoft a lengthy letter outlining concerns about potential competition issues raised by Microsoft’s practice, according to an exhibit introduced in court.

“We are deeply concerned about the potential for Microsoft’s actions to harm the competitive process,” Google wrote at the time, recalling Microsoft’s own run-ins with antitrust regulators.

On Monday, a U.S. government attorney urged Begging to acknowledge how the letter and other examples show search defaults are highly valuable — both financially and in terms of driving user search behavior in general.

But Pichai denied any possible parallel between the two situations, describing Google’s contracts as standard advertising contracts. Microsoft’s practice raised concerns that it did not adequately inform users of the option to choose a different search provider; Instead, Internet Explorer simply imported a user’s prior preference, and if the user didn’t opt ​​in, it defaulted to Bing, he said.

Government prosecutors sought to demonstrate that Google feared it would become too involved in search, pointing to a 2019 email in which Pichai asked an employee from Google’s search business to email him when he was leaving to work for Apple.

That particular request came as Pichai cited several staffing and recruiting efforts by former Google search executive John Gianandrea, who went on to oversee Apple’s search efforts. He further testified on trial). Apple has testified that it always sees Google as the best search engine for its users, even as it considers alternatives such as partnering with Microsoft on search or buying Bing outright.

In the afternoon, Pichai admitted in court: “There are moments when people at Google worry about Apple being a potential competitor,” without specifying any specific time frame in search.

Regarding the 2019 email exchange, Pichai testified to his request — which also requested a “monthly report of all losses. [of talent] to key competitors” — an attempt to respond to Google’s search group’s plea for help amid general fears of talent loss.

Beggar said slyly that he did not believe he had received any of the statements he had asked for.

A lawyer representing the US group suggested that Google may have paid in part to keep Apple out of the search market, and Google kept renewing the Apple deal to benefit its search. Volume and advertising revenues and for Apple users.

Pichai testified that the Apple-Google relationship was not always smooth. In December 2018, Pichai met Apple CEO Tim Cook. (As part of the Apple deal, Pichai said he and Cook meet annually to discuss their deal.) On the agenda: Apple’s revenue growth Related to the deal, Cook’s concerns suggest that Apple’s revenue growth isn’t keeping pace with Google’s.

Apple wants to know what accounts for the difference, according to a Google summary of the nearly two-hour meeting entered into testimony Monday.

Google told Apple at the meeting that any discrepancy could be due to failures in Apple’s search and not Google’s fault.

“Google does not control the amount or type of traffic Safari receives; Apple is,” Google argued at the meeting, according to the summary.

While both companies continue to view the search deal as mutually beneficial, Pichai testified that Cook “seemed very motivated to work to find a good experience for our joint users,” adding that at times the meeting was “tense” and some participants were “nervous” going into it.

To make things smoother, during the meeting, Pichai proposed creating a dedicated Google app or widget on Apple’s iOS that would allow users to access Google search right from their home screen.

Cook “asked, but had no reaction other than to mention that we have different strengths,” the Google summary says.

U.S. prosecutors also clashed with Google over its handling of internal communications, knowing it could be included in future lawsuits. In an extended exchange, the DOJ pushed for an explanation of the company’s policy, which, until this February, automatically deleted employee chat messages longer than 24 hours. has been in effect Flagged again and again as Allegedly evasive By Google reviewers.

Pichai explained to the public prosecutor that Google’s chat policy was set by the company’s legal team in 2008 before he became CEO. The lawyer pointed out that Pichai made no attempt to change the policy once he became CEO; Pichai agreed, saying, “It was not a change that came to my attention.”

At one point, the DOJ showed a 2021 chat recording involving Pichai and his communications assistant before dropping the request nine seconds later.

Pichai said he occasionally asks for chat history to be deactivated, and in this case the chat conversation may have included personal information related to a public event linked to Google’s cloud business.

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