Could the Anti-trust Suit Against Google Bring Down the Giant?

hcsp.jpgIt doesn’t matter if the FTC can win. The scary part for the web giant, writes Dan Lyons, is having to deal with the hassle and distraction of a major government case.

Let me indulge in a bit of hyperbole for a moment and just say this: if the government brings an antitrust lawsuit against Google, then Google as we know it is dead.
As The New York Times reported yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission has been investigating Google since last summer over antitrust concerns. And now the commission has hired a gunslinger outside attorney, Beth Wilkinson, which indicates they are planning to bring legal action against Google.
Leave aside for the moment whether Google deserves to be sued, or whether the government ends up winning any kind of concessions from the Internet search giant.
The point is, the suit itself will be devastating to Google’s business. Just the distraction that this kind of case creates can hobble even the most successful, well-run company. The endless depositions, the court hearings, the subpoenas, the PR nightmare every time yet another embarrassing old email gets dug up out of the archives–it’s a nightmare.
Think Google is too powerful? You only need to look back to Microsoft circa 1998 to see what happens. That year, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against the software giant, and brought in renowned attorney David Boies to make its case that Microsoft had abused its monopoly power in the personal-computer market.
The case dragged on for years and ended with relatively toothless settlement terms, but by then the damage was done. Microsoft had become timid, slow, afraid to compete. The stain of the allegations had tarnished its reputation. The distraction of fighting the court battle caused Microsoft to lose focus, and guess what? By 2004, when the dust finally settled, the world had moved on, and Microsoft had missed all the big trends: Internet search went to Google; online music and media went to Apple, which parlayed those strongholds into its current dominant position in mobile phones and now tablets; and social networking was just being invented by Facebook.
Source: The Daily Beast | Dan Lyons