Eric Schmidt managed to come out of Wednesday's Senate antitrust hearings gaffe-free. Unless you count when Senator Herbert Kohl asked whether Google had a monopoly on search marketing, and Schmidt said, "We're in that area." Or the time that he talked about another company that had faced antitrust accusations and didn't say "Microsoft," even though everybody knew he was referring to Microsoft. Nevertheless, the four long hours of grilling panned out about as expected, save a few colorful moments of senators making metaphors. The over-arching theme of them, of course, was organized crime.
Cooking the Books
Senator Mike Lee from Utah prepared a pretty transparent test to see whether Google prioritized its own companies in search results. The resulting chart showed fifty separate searches that compared Google's placement in shopping results. Where as competitors varied in the placement based on the search, Google was almost always third on the list. "You cooked it so you are always No. 3," Lee said to Schmidt. "Senator, I can assure you we haven't cooked anything," Mr. Schmidt replied.
Rigging Horse Races
A few minutes after Mike Lee's chart exercise, Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut made a metaphor. "You run the racetrack, own the racetrack, you didn't have horses for a while but now you do and your horses seem to be winning." To which his colleague from Minnesota, Al Franken, joked: "Google might be doping the horses."
The Don Defense
Eric Schmidt's refrain was that Google always does what's best for the user. "The Internet is the ultimate level playing field," he said "We focus on loyalty not lock-in." To which, Larry Dignan at ZDNet explained, "In other words, Schmidt’s testimony boiled down to trust us."