A public brawl between two big companies is always fun to watch. It doesn’t happen very often, as most business executives go to great lengths to avoid saying anything in public remotely colorful (that’s one reason why Elon Musk is so much fun to watch). So the war of words between Microsoft and Google on Friday, triggered by Microsoft president Brad Smith’s congressional testimony about Google’s dominance of digital advertising, was guaranteed to get attention.
What makes it a particularly fascinating debate is that there is no obvious good guy here. Yes, Microsoft attempted to drape itself in the flag of the fourth estate, by arguing that the erosion of the news media was directly tied to Google’s “multiple roles” in the digital ad ecosystem. Few would argue with the essence of what Microsoft was saying—other than Google, which called the claims “self-serving.”