Smoke, Mirrors and Spin – FairSearch v/s ITA-Google

An email from a Washington PR firm containing a blog post from Faresearch.org landed after yesterday’s story on Orbitz renewing its agreement with ITA Software (just bought by Google subject to regulatory approval). It spins harder than a Cossack dancer and is often try-hard but interesting nevertheless because, tech arguments aside, it reveals the key FairSearch strategy – you cannot trust Google. Right or wrong, they clearly feel this will resonate with US Government power brokers.

“So, Orbitz inks a renewal deal with ITA. What does it all mean? Some (rhymes with Shmoogle) will suggest it’s proof that concerns of Google’s plans to withhold licensing renewals from ITA customers are overblown. Actually, this only indicates that Orbitz – ITA’s first commercial customer – perceived a need to ensure its continued access to ITA as an essential input to its business.  This, of course, validates one of FairSearch’s key concerns.

“Orbitz says about the extension (read here) – “ITA will provide the Company with access to the most up-to-date functionality related to QPX that ITA makes generally available to all of its customers” [our emphasis] – reinforces concerns that Google will be able to keep the best innovations it makes to ITA technology for itself.

“Also note that, Orbitz states only that ITA agreed to give Orbitz access to QPX. But what if Google stopped making enhancement to the QPX software it offers Orbitz and other ITA customers, only to continue development on a non-QPX platform that is provided to no one other than Google?

“Interesting that Google – er, ITA, has struck a license renewal deal with Orbitz an online travel agency, with a different business model than Google’s planned meta-search travel product, that has remained publicly neutral on the deal. Meanwhile, Google and ITA have repeatedly refused KAYAK’s request for assurances that: KAYAK’s license will be extended at fair and reasonable terms; and existing and future licenses would continue to be upgraded with the best technology available (read more here).

“Perhaps it’s because KAYAK, which has a meta-search product that would compete directly with Google’s planned travel search product (don’t take our word for it, Google’s last annual report cites KAYAK as a competitor – but not Orbitz), has spoken out about Google’s power and incentive to control the market for online travel if it is allowed to acquire ITA.

“Should we take this as a sign that Google, if allowed to acquire ITA, intends to use its power in the travel market to punish competitors who question its power, and reward trusted allies? We’ll let you do the math. That’s really a question better put to Google. After all, their motto is – wait for it – “trust us” (and you thought we were going to say “don’t be evil”).”

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