Christine Varney’s fighting words on Monday make it clear that US trust-busters want to wipe the slate clean after the Bush years. That brings back memories of some notorious off-the-cuff words Varney threw out during a panel session last year:
For me, Microsoft is so last century. They are not the problem. I think we’re going to continue to see a problem, potentially, with Google.
Now we hear from one usually well-informed source that Neelie Kroes (pictured), Europe’s competition commissioner, has been raising the same general concerns, albeit in a private setting.
From what we hear, Kroes has taken to pondering the anti-trust implications of Google’s dominance of the internet in a “thinking-out-loud” kind of way. According to our source, the European anti-trust chief – who looks set to deliver a double-whammy to the old Wintel partnership with stinging fines this week and over the summer – has raised the question, unprompted, in at least one meeting with tech industry representatives.
This doesn’t mean that any European review of Google is underway. In fact, given the very informal way in which Kroes has raised it, it probably means there isn’t anything official going on – yet. Also, Kroes be will leaving Brussels later this year when the present Commission’s term ends.
Still, these seeds of interest on both sides of the Atlantic are a sign of where more activitist anti-trust enforcers are likely to turn their attention. Eric Schmidt tried last week to project Google as a more responsible corporate citizen. He had better make sure the company’s actions match its words.