The FTC Got Google Right

A sign is displayed outside of the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.
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A sign is displayed outside of the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

After months of examination, the Federal Trade Commission has decided to let Google's $750 million acquisition of mobile advertiser AdMob move forward.

And it makes sense.

Just yesterday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told me in my interview: "It absolutely is a hugely competitive market. You have Apple's proprietary product, which is largely now going to be closed as best as I can tell, plus five or six companies that are all competing for parts of that mobile ad platform, not only on the iPhone but on the Android and all the other devices as well. We've always believed this is an acquisition that should go through."

And now the FTC agrees, and in the process points to Google frenemy Apple as a key reason why the investigation is closing and the deal will go through. Sure, Google's acquisition raises anti-trust concerns. I mean, how could it not when the company already controls such an enormous piece of online advertising. But when you have Apple out there, acquiring Quattro, and developing its own mobile advertising platform in "iAd," it's tough to make the case that the government ought to step in and stop Google. And it's not just Apple.

There will be others who try to seize upon this trend.

They'll need to, too.

IDC earlier this week projected that while mobile advertising is still a tiny fraction of the overall ad spend, and still a small part of overall digital advertising, it's growing faster than any other segment. Mobile advertising is widely seen as the next big frontier and battleground for the likes of Google, Apple, Microsoft , Yahoo with billions of dollars in new revenue hanging in the balance, and ready to be picked.

In a blog after the decision became public, Google's vice president of product management Susan Wojcicki posted, "The decision is great news for the mobile advertising ecosystem as a whole." She added, "We're very excited about the possibilities in this field. As an immediate matter, we're now moving to close this acquisition in coming weeks. We'll then start work right away on bringing AdMob's and Google's teams and products together. This industry is moving fast, and we're excited to be part of the race."

As you might expect, Apple had no comment. It's a huge win for Google, but in recent weeks, with the Apple news about iAd, hardly surprising. At a time when government regulators seem to be evolving from merely "active," to "activist," this move — or more accurately non-move — by the FTC is precisely the right move.


Questions? Comments?