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5/5/2009
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Google, Apple Relationship Reviewed By FTC

The agency's interest in the matter is unlikely to amount to much unless it uncovers substantial market impact.

The Federal Trade Commission has begun looking into the relationship between Apple and Google to see if it violates antitrust laws.

According to reports in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the FTC is examining whether the presence of Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson on the boards of both Apple and Google harms competition in the marketplace.

Google declined to comment. Apple and the FTC did not respond to a request for comment.

The FTC's interest in the matter is unlikely to amount to much unless the agency uncovers substantial market impact.

Google suffered a regulatory setback last year when it was forced to abandon its ad deal with Yahoo to avoid an antitrust case brought by the Department of Justice. The Justice Department is also reviewing Google’s book search settlement to see whether it raises antitrust concerns.

FTC oversight of Google hasn't produced the same sparks as the company's clash with Justice over Yahoo. The trade agency allowed Google to proceed with its acquisition of DoubleClick in late 2007. And while it has heard complaints about the privacy implications of Google’s behavioral advertising technology and of Google’s online apps, it hasn't imposed meaningful limitations on Google as a consequence.

The FTC's interest in Apple and Google may be premature. The two companies cooperate more than they compete at the moment, but competition should become more of an issue in a year or two as devices running Google’s Android system proliferate and present an alternative to Apple's iTunes, iPhone, and iPod Touch ecosystem.


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