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Google towards legal guidelines that Microsoft (and others since 1890) have thwarted

Others insisted that technological shifts to the Internet and away from the personal computer resulted in Microsoft losing the gatekeeper power it once possessed. Technology, not antitrust, opened the door to competition, they said.

The Justice Department was vague in its lawsuit and briefing with reporters about what remedial action the government would propose if it won the case. However, at this stage, Google is so dominant in search that giving consumers a choice of another search engine may not make much of a difference.

Google is seen not only as a search service that delivers relevant results, but also as a verb – what people consider to be internet searches. Given the choice, they could go with Google, and the company would argue that it was a superior product that people preferred.

"It's hard to argue that, whatever the outcome, this case will really change the competitive landscape in the search," said A. Douglas Melamed, former chief officer in the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, professor at Stanford Law School.

The standard criticism of antitrust law, with its protracted legal battles, is that it is late and slow and is not suited to addressing anti-competitive concerns in fast-moving high-tech markets. This is a real problem, said legal experts.

Still, filing the lawsuit this week could make a difference, they agreed.

"A suit like this sends signals to the marketplace and to the company itself about what kind of competitive behavior is acceptable," said Scott Hemphill, professor at New York University Law School.

Daisuke Wakabayashi contributed to the coverage.

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