By Tony Romm - 03/01/10 04:10 PM EST
Nevertheless, the latest back and forth between the two tech companies represents an interesting role reversal for Microsoft, long the target of antitrust criticisms -- in Europe and elsewhere.
It was only last month that Microsoft put an end to a two-year long battle with European regulators over its decision to package the Internet Explorer Web browser with its Windows operating system. Now, Microsoft-equipped computers sold in Europe include an application that allows users to select a Web program from a randomized list of third-party providers -- an obvious attempt to appease the European Commission, which first sanctioned Microsoft for the early practice.
Recognizing that dispute, and the many other battles Microsoft has waged against regulators over the years, Heiner last week stressed his company's latest charges against Google should not be read as hypocritical.
"Microsoft would obviously be among the first to say that leading firms should not be punished for their success," he wrote. "Nor should firms be punished just because a particular business practice may harm a rival—competition on the merits can do that, too."
"Our concerns relate only to Google practices that tend to lock in business partners and content (like Google Books) and exclude competitors, thereby undermining competition more broadly,"Heiner said. Ultimately the competition law agencies will have to decide whether or not Google’s practices should be seen as illegal."