Google CEO Sundar Pichai defended his company's strategy of paying Apple and other tech companies to make Google the default search engine on their devices during his testimony in the largest U.S. antitrust case in a quarter of a century, claiming the goal was to make the user experience "seamless and easy."
According to the Department of Justice, Google, a company whose name is synonymous with searching the internet, pays tech firms to block other search engines in an effort to stifle competition and innovation.
In 2021, Google's parent firm Alphabet incurred operating expenses of about $68 billion, but payments of more than $26 billion were made, according to court documents the government placed into the record last week.
According to Google, the reason it controls the majority of the market is that its search engine performs better than rivals'. "We are working very, very hard for any given query we provide the best experience,'' Pichai said. “That’s always been our true north.''
Pichai, an Indian native, left McKinsey & Co. to work at Google in 2004. He was named CEO in 2015 after contributing to the development of Google Chrome, the most widely used web browser worldwide.
In addition, he leads Alphabet, the parent company of Google. The company's net income increased dramatically under his direction from $19.5 billion in 2016, the first full year of Alphabet's operations, to $60 billion last year.
In his testimony on Monday, Pichai, Google's star defence witness, said that the company paid phone manufacturers and wireless phone providers in part to encourage them to make expensive security updates and other enhancements to their products, not just to make sure Google was the first search engine users saw when they opened their computers or smartphones.
The reason Google gains from these partnerships is that it earns money from people clicking on ads that appear in its searches, and it splits that revenue with Apple and other businesses who use Google as their default search engine.
The Justice Department attempted to demonstrate that Google was concerned about losing talent to Apple and feared the company may launch its own search engine.
Pichai requested to be notified immediately anytime a member of Google's search engine team left the company for Apple in an email from 2019 that was produced in court.
During the Trump administration, in 2020, the largest antitrust case since the Justice Department pursued Microsoft for controlling the majority of internet browsers was launched. The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. hosted the trial on September 12 and it is anticipated to last for ten weeks.
With inputs from AP