Would you still use Google if Apple didn’t pay $20 billion for access to your iPhone?

Microsoft has invested over $100 billion in development its Bing search engine in the last two decades, but can only boast small market shares. About nine out of 10 web searches in the U.S. are conducted through Google, with Bing splitting the remaining searches with a long list of smaller competitors.

On Thursday, the U.S. government asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to rule that Google is illegally maintaining that lead by unfairly manipulating users to rein in Microsoft and other rivals.

Google’s dominance led the U.S. Department of Justice to sue the company in 2020, saying this was the case violate antitrust law by using exclusionary agreements to maintain a monopoly. The two sides went into a secret trial Late last year, before U.S. Judge Amit Mehta spent nearly five months digesting the evidence.

Mehta heard closing arguments on Thursday, with prosecutors arguing that without his intervention, Google’s dominance would continue for years to come –despite emerging threats from AI chatbots like ChatGPT. “The search engine industry has so far been immune to the entry of any competition,” said lawyer Kenneth Dintzer.

The case is the first of a handful of lawsuits the government has brought against the largest technology companies since it tightened antitrust scrutiny of the industry in 2019 under then-President Donald Trump. The Biden administration didn’t let off the gas.

This is at the heart of the government’s case against Google over $20 billion It says that Google pays Apple annually to be the default search engine on iPhones and the Safari browser in much of the world. According to the government, Google is also paying more than $1.5 billion a year to wireless carriers and device makers and more than $150 million to browsers for similar outages in the United States. Google can afford to pay these amounts and still make huge profits because it has cornered the U.S. search and search advertising market, the government claims.

Google’s lawyers counter that companies like Apple choose Google as their default because it gives users a better experience, not just because they get paid. If browsers like Mozilla had opted for alternatives to Google, they would have lost users as a result of the change, the search company argues. “Google has lawfully appropriated what the government describes as monopoly power and scale,” attorney John Schmidtlein told Mehta. “Microsoft missed the boat.” Mehta now faces the question of whether Google has unfairly earned its popularity.

Increase in profits

The contracts between Google and Apple date back to 2002, when the Safari developer was first given the opportunity to integrate Google Search into the browser, according to court documents. The payments began after Google co-founder Sergey Brin floated the idea in 2005 of sharing some of the company’s growing search revenue or “helping Apple in other ways,” Brin wrote, according to court documents.

But in a deal struck this year, Google got something in return for agreeing to pay Apple half of its revenue: Google Search would be set as the default in Safari. The requirement has expanded to include more Apple services in recent years, while the revenue share and associated incentive fees have fluctuated.

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