The Wall Street Journal has reported that Microsoft has hired former FTC deputy assistant director of the Bureau of Competition, Randall Long. The PC giant has confirmed that once he joins the company at the end of the month, Long will become a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, heading up Microsoft’s regulatory affairs branch in Washington, D.C.
While it’s certainly a rather innocuous story on the face of it, the intriguing part of the hiring is Long’s relationship to Microsoft’s chief rival, Google. As a member of the FTC Long led review panels analyzing several of Google’s recent acquisitions, including DoubleClick and AdMob, with reports that he was particularly outspoken in his opposition to the latter.
Although Microsoft has yet to divulge the details of Long’s new Capitol Hill assignment, the WSJ reports that the Redmond Company will task its new lobbyist with one key assignment, keeping federal regulators focused on investigating Google’s activities.
I will admit that while the endless legal wrangling and patent battles between the titans of the technology industry often bores me to tears, I find this sort of news to be particularly interesting, as it almost has a cloak and dagger counter-intelligence feel to it…or perhaps my perspective is skewed due to the fact I’m currently in the middle of reading an engrossing spy/murder mystery.
But given both companies long and tumultuous shared history, this sort of corporate lobbying really isn’t all that surprising. Since Google’s rise to power and the dawn of this endless patent infringement era Microsoft has been one of Google’s most vocal critics, with numerous complaints and lawsuits levied against the search engine giant both here and abroad.
Things may have come to a head last month when Microsoft complained that soon-to-be Google acquisition Motorola Mobility wasn’t licensing its industry-standard patents fairly and was discriminating against companies like Microsoft who depend on those patents to produce its mobile devices. Beyond the FRAND patent abuse claim, however, Microsoft took the opportunity to voice its opposition to the impending Motorola acquisition, a voice that Long will hope to make louder and more annoying to federal regulators on Capitol Hill.
In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google responds in kind (although its likely Google is already well represented in Washington), hiring some anti-Microsoft lawyer to lobby against the PC giant or simply work to discredit Randall Long. Sure it’s nothing more than corporate smear campaigns, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than patent claims.