In a significant antitrust trial against Alphabet, the parent company of Google, a former executive from Samsung Electronics’ venture capital division revealed that pressure from Google played a role in opposing the expansion of Branch Metrics’ software in Samsung smartphones. Patrick Chang, who worked at Samsung Next to invest in innovative companies, had recommended expanding Branch’s capabilities, which allow in-app searches, to Samsung’s Android smartphones.
Branch Metrics’ founder, Alexander Austin, had previously testified that his company had to limit some of its software functions to address Google’s concerns as it pursued deals with wireless carriers and smartphone manufacturers. It was crucial for Branch to ensure that its searches remained within apps and didn’t link to the web, as per Austin’s testimony.
Chang also mentioned that Samsung encountered resistance from wireless carriers, including AT&T, which sell Android phones. Google is accused of paying significant sums, around $10 billion annually through revenue share agreements, to smartphone manufacturers like Samsung Electronics and wireless carriers who agree to make Google’s software the default option, effectively maintaining Google’s monopoly in the search market.
During the trial, the Justice Department presented an August 2020 email from Samsung executive David Eun, in which he expressed frustration, stating that “Google is clearly buying its way to squelch competitors.”
However, during cross-examination by Google’s attorney, Chang was asked about an alternative explanation for Samsung’s lack of interest in Branch, suggesting that the software might have been cumbersome and didn’t generate much user engagement with the links provided by Branch.
This testimony came during the fourth week of a more than two-month-long trial, where the U.S. Justice Department seeks to demonstrate that Google abused its monopoly in search and search advertising. Google maintains that its business practices were lawful.