Google chairman Schmidt admits Amazon is 'our biggest search competitor'

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has admitted that Amazon is its biggest threat in the search engine market and that a “Google killer” is a cast iron inevitability as the Internet goes forward.

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The web giant’s head was giving a speech in Berlin that was aiming to change the image of the company in Europe from one that is thought of as a monopoly to a company that is a trusted member of the European Union community.

Some of Schmidt’s most interesting comments came on the subject of its biggest competitor and the fact that Amazon’s strength in the online retail sector is something that is a huge challenge.

“Really our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon,” Schmidt said, according to Search Engine Land.

Schmidt went on to explain that the much-publicised anti-trust case that it has been embroiled in was a result of the company’s evolution and that the way it answers queries is exactly what consumers want.

“This issue of providing direct answers to questions is at the heart of complaints being made about Google to the European Commission. Companies like Expedia, Yelp, and TripAdvisor argue that it deprives their websites of valuable traffic and disadvantages their businesses. They’d rather go back to 10 blue links. What’s interesting is that the traffic these websites get from Google has increased significantly — faster in fact than our own traffic — since we started showing direct answers to questions,” he said. “Put simply, we created search for users, not websites...”

The European Commission has been investigating Google since 2010 when it was accused by a clutch of smaller companies over the way it favours its own services in search engine results. It was eventually given an ultimatum by Joaquin Almunia, head of the EC antitrust unit, to address the accusations that means competitor logos must be displayed and links are now given added prominence.

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Google accounts for some 90 per cent of all searches made in Europe and 70 per cent in the US yet Schmidt thinks that there will be a company that comes into the market to spell the death knell for the firm.

“But more important, someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us. I know, because not long ago we were in that garage. Change comes from where you least expect it . . . The next Google won’t do what Google does, just as Google didn’t do what AOL did. Inventions are always dynamic and the resulting upheavals should make us confident that the future won’t be static,” he admitted.

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