By Dave HeinerVice President and Deputy General Counsel
In November 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice determined that a plan by Google to provide advertising next to just a portion of the search results on Yahoo’s competing search engine was illegal under the antitrust laws. Google wasn’t especially interested in the additional viewership for its ads—it already had massive ad volume—but rather in scuttling Microsoft’s efforts to combine with Yahoo to form a stronger competitor to Google in search. Google was quite open about this. When asked in September 2008 to name the most important development for Google in the preceding six months, Google’s Eric Schmidt replied “the Yahoo business deal . . . It was a setback for Microsoft.” (Ken Auletta, Googled, 2009)
History seems to be repeating itself, now on the other side of the Pacific. The two main search advertising platforms in Japan are run by Google and Yahoo Japan (which is controlled by Softbank Corp.) Google plans to replace Yahoo Japan’s search advertising platform with its own, reducing the number of ad platforms in Japan to just one. Google will take over the natural search results on Yahoo Japan too, replacing the Yahoo search service that Yahoo Japan had optimized for Japanese queries. The proposed deal will eliminate search competition in Japan—in paid advertising and natural search results.
Today Google accounts for about 51% of paid search advertising in Japan. Yahoo Japan accounts for 47%. Their combined share of natural search results is almost as high. If Google is permitted to proceed with its plan, it would gain nearly complete control over search and search advertising in Japan through contract, not organic growth. Google alone would decide what consumers in Japan will find, or not find, on the Web. And Google will obtain massive amounts of data regarding the search history and Web sites visited by every consumer, business and government agency that conducts Web searches.
Posted by Caroline CurtinPolicy Counsel, U.S. Government Affairs
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, held a hearing on “Protecting Youths in an Online World.” On behalf of Microsoft, Julie Inman-Grant and I attended the hearing to support Microsoft’s continued commitment to finding ways to keep families safer online. Among other topics, there was an increased focus on the risks to the teen audience, and what the industry and others can do to increase awareness of risks and tools for this demographic and their parents.
Today, the Windows Live Family Safety team blogged about what’s new with Family Safety, and it was exciting to read about how Family Safety is increasing its effort to not only keep younger children safer online, but teens as well. In the post, Microsoft Senior Product Manager, Phil Sohn, blogs about how he uses Family Safety to facilitate safer social networking for his own teenagers. Here’s part of what Phil has to say in the post:
Posted by John Seethoff Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
Earlier this week President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law. While the legislation is focused primarily on overhauling the U.S. financial regulatory system, the Act contains eight provisions addressing corporate governance and executive compensation that will have a significant impact on public companies.
The Act writes another chapter in the discussion about shareholders voting on executive pay (commonly referred to as “say-on-pay”). Last year, we considered two shareholder proposals for our 2009 annual meeting requesting an advisory vote on whether to implement “say-on-pay.” Instead we went a step further and held our first say-on-pay vote giving shareholders the opportunity to weigh in on the policies and practices for compensation of the Company’s top leaders. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and senior vice president, Legal and Corporate Affairs details Microsoft's say-on-pay policy in the latest edition of Directors & Boards, one of the industry’s leading voices on governance matters.
Governor Gregoire has created a new Higher Education Task Force and asked me to serve as its chair. In keeping with the task force approach, our group is scheduled to meet four times this summer and early fall to develop a long-term strategic approach to maximizing the impact and return our state receives on its investment in higher education. Our specific charges are (1) to develop a realistic and viable funding strategy that keeps higher education affordable for Washington students; (2) recommend ways to improve accountability for performance among our higher education institutions; and (3) examine whether the governance system for higher education could be updated to become more effective. The challenges are clear. Our state is home to numerous employers, including Microsoft, that utilize great numbers of employees with higher education degrees. The future of our state economy is directly tied to these high-skilled workers. At the same time, our four-year institutions are at the low end in producing graduates with these types of skills and degrees. And the state budget crisis has put additional financial pressure on all our colleges and universities, making it even harder for them to invest in programs to produce graduates ready to step into these high-demand fields.
Posted by Laura RubyDirector, Accessibility Policy & Standards Yesterday the White House announced that the government will renew its commitment to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires access to the federal government's electronic and information technology for people with disabilities. The announcement was part of the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which gives 43 million Americans with disabilities the promise of equal access to all the benefits and advantages of society. Section 508 applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain or use electronic and information technology. Today’s announcement focused on ensuring better agency accountability and more responsibility for implementing Section 508 requirements, so that the benefits of information technology are made available to those with disabilities and to older people who often experience vision, hearing or dexterity impairments as they age. Accessible technology enables people with disabilities to access services and pursue education and employment in today’s competitive and connected digital workplace. It also helps business leaders and governments empower and retain top employees and aging workers. The United States has been a leader on accessibility, and many other countries look to Section 508 as a model. The law helps ensure a more vibrant and competitive technology industry, as the government’s commitment to adopt the most accessible technology products creates a powerful incentive for investment in accessibility improvements. To continue sending the right signals to industry, however, the government must set clear goals and guidelines, without favoring one technology or business framework over another. Also, agency staff who carry out the policy need sufficient training in how to use, evaluate and maintain accessible technology.