The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly urging antitrust regulators to strongly consider the breakup of Google. The goal is to separate the company’s search business from all other services it offers. This may seem dire, and it’s certainly nothing to scoff at, but Google can afford it.
The measures do not mention Google by name, but the company has a 90 percent market share for search in Europe. Here’s the crux of the matter:
The resolution underlines that “the online search market is of particular importance in ensuring competitive conditions within the digital single market” and welcomes the Commission’s pledges to investigate further the search engines’ practices.
Given the role of internet search engines in “commercialising secondary exploitation of obtained information” and the need to enforce EU competition rules, MEPs also call on the Commission “to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services” in the long run.
Many key people will need to make various decisions in response. These include European Commissioners for Competition (Margrethe Vestager), for Digital Economy and Society (Günther Oettinger), and for Digital Single Market (Andrus Ansip). Oh, and you can expect various European country heads will want to weigh in as well.
It’s not that individuals, countries, or governments will be paid off, or that there will be fines that Google will simply not be able to avoid. Those are not out of the question, but the bottom line is that this will all boil down to a cost, but not a significant one.
That’s not to say that spending a sizeable sum of money is not significant — maintaining a healthy revenue-to-profit ratio is critical for all businesses — but at the end of the day, Google will be just fine. The company will probably have to spend some cash here, hire some people for this or that, and possibly even make some changes to its various offerings.
Instead of breaking up, Google may have to offer alternative search engines in Android, push new Chrome users to consider Bing, or maybe even stop requiring a Google accounts for certain services. In other words, the company may have to give users more non-Google options across its product lineup, most likely in some of the ones that dominate the European market, including the aforementioned as well as maybe enterprise services, maps, and cloud computing.
None of this will help the company’s overall strategy and plans, but it won’t slow it down very much either. Companies the size of Google already spend a lot of money on initiatives and projects they don’t absolutely have to (Note: I’m not talking about moonshots, but just general money that you can afford to waste once you hit a certain size).
So don’t worry, Google won’t be broken up. This will continue to drag on, and you may see some more self-inflicted wounds, but there won’t be anything life threatening. Certainly nothing that more money can’t address.