“iPhone” is one of the searches that generates the most advertising revenue for Google. This confidential piece of information that the company tried unsuccessfully to keep secret illustrates the love-hate relationship between Apple and Google at the heart of the trial against the search engine for alleged abuse of its dominant position. The 10 weeks of testimony in the 10th federal courthouse in Washington have shed light on what has been a toxic relationship, not for Apple and Google, but for the market and for the competition, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
More than 50 witnesses have taken the stand for more than two months. Among them have been Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, as well as experts, scholars and managers of the search engine and other technology companies. The hearings ended on Thursday, but the decision on the most important antitrust case in two decades will still take months. Judge Amit Mehta, appointed in 2014 by former president Barack Obama, has asked the parties to submit their closing briefs early next year and will be hearing closing arguments in early May.
“I can tell you as I sit here today that I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Mehta said Thursday as he closed the evidentiary phase of the trial. If the judge concludes that Google abused its dominant position in the U.S. internet search market, where it has a 90% market share, the most appropriate remedies to adopt will be determined at a second trial. The paradox is that a ruling preventing Google from renewing its agreements with Apple could harm the latter more than the search engine itself.