Staff Writer, CNET News.com
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Google executives downplayed their legendary battle with Microsoft but said they were keeping an eye on their larger rival's plans for embedding Web search functionality into Vista, its delayed next-generation operating system.
Asked during an executive question-and-answer session here at Google Press Day about the company's concerns about Vista, co-founder Sergey Brin said Wednesday that Microsoft had behaved anti-competitively in the past when the Netscape browser was giving Internet Explorer stiff competition in the mid-1990s.
"We just see the history of that company behaving anti-competitively and...not playing fair," he said. "So I think we want to...look at the areas where that power can be abused."
In general though, Google is too busy creating new products and services to pay much attention to what Microsoft is doing, executives said.
"We try not to focus on what they (Microsoft) are doing," and are concentrating instead on innovation, said co-founder Larry Page. For example, Google released free Web-based Gmail and "everybody had to react to us. We didn't have to react to them."
Media who pit Google's Web-based services against Microsoft's dominance with its operating system are missing the broader picture, said Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
"There is room for more than one winner," he said. "Each of the strategies can coexist independent of the others."
Meanwhile, the company is investigating recent complaints by Webmasters about sites disappearing or dropping down in the index, Brin said in response to a question about the company transitioning to a new index, dubbed "Big Daddy." "Overall this new index is significantly more comprehensive" than the old index, he said.
Asked about Google's plans for television, Page said, "We're excited about taking the properties of search-based advertising...and applying that to the video space," he said.
"I think it would be great if there is a marketplace for television like there has started to be for music," he said. "It would be great if a lot of companies participated in that (and users could) get any kind of content on any kind of computer in any place you are. The reality is there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make it work transparently."
Asked why the executives cashed in so many of their shares in the company in automated prearranged plans since going public in 2004, Brin said the amount he sold is minor compared with what he still holds.
"I ended up selling about 20 percent of my shares. I'm holding 80 percent (and) I'm pretty happy about it," he said. "I don't think most people would keep 80 percent of their assets in one" stock.
"I just took off that chunk, but the vast majority I intend to keep forever," Brin added.