Google “won’t let lawyers make product decisions”
Google boss Eric Schmidt has said the company will continue to innovate, despite the threat of anti-competitive action by the EU.
The outgoing CEO said he was keen to avoid a lengthy, Microsoft-style showdown with the EU’s competition authorities, but wouldn’t let the company’s lawyers dictate product policy. Google is currently being investigated by the EU for alleged abuse of its dominant position in search.
The engineers build stuff, the lawyers come in, there are then a series of often very difficult fights inside the company
“It is very important that the lawyers are not making the product decisions,” Schmidt told the Sunday Telegraph.
“Because the lawyers, on balance, will be more conservative, because that is how lawyers work. So I always say to the product makers, just build the best product you can.”
Schmidt admitted, however, that Google has to be more cautious when launching new products. “It is a reality that when we release products we have to be sensitive to regulatory and privacy issues,” he said. “So we now do extensive reviews and we’re pretty happy with that balance now. The engineers build stuff, the lawyers come in, there are then a series of often very difficult fights inside the company between the different stakeholders.”
“The days when we could just ship a product are gone. We do much, much more than five years ago. It is a permanent change.”
Asked whether Schmidt saw Google being dragged into a decade-long antitrust battle with the EU – in a similar vein to Microsoft’s long-running skirmish with the European authorities – he replied: “We certainly want to avoid that.”
“”I think it is in our interests and I would hope in its [the EU’s] interests to do a quick analysis of concerns that have been raised by competitors, hopefully they are minor or they are not correct, and we’ll find out and make sure we are operating well within the law and the spirit of the law,” Schmidt added.
“We understand we play a major role in Europe and we’re not denying that. We have a lot of meetings with appropriate government officials.”
The EU is currently investigating whether Google is artificially boosting the ranking of its own services in search results, to the detriment of smaller competitors, such as British price-comparison site, Foundem.