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Business News/ News / Google CEO Testifies About Search Dominance in U.S. Antitrust Case
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Google CEO Testifies About Search Dominance in U.S. Antitrust Case

wsj

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai took the stand as the trial entered its eighth week, a pivotal moment in a case that could result in major changes to the company’s search engine.

Google and Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington on October 30, 2023. AP/PTI (AP)Premium
Google and Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington on October 30, 2023. AP/PTI (AP)

WASHINGTON—Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai took the stand Monday in the tech giant’s antitrust trial, a pivotal moment in a case that could result in major changes to the company’s search engine.

Google’s lawyers called Pichai as a witness Monday as the trial entered its eighth week, seeking to undermine the Justice Department’s central argument that Google dominates internet search because of anticompetitive agreements that block rivals from gaining market share.

Pichai described Google’s search dominance as the result of its innovation and early investment in its Chrome browser.

“We realized early on that browsers are critical to how people are able to navigate and use the web," Pichai said during questioning by Google lawyer John Schmidtlein.

“It became very clear early on that if you make the user’s experience better, they would use the web more, they would enjoy using the web more, and they would search more in Google as well," Pichai said.

The CEO’s appearance follows weeks of testimony from government witnesses aimed at deals Google struck with Apple and other smartphone companies to make its search engine the default search option on their devices. Google has argued it makes the best search engine and competes fairly for business deals.

The nonjury trial is being heard by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who could ultimately order a breakup or other changes to Google’s business practices.

Schmidtlein, Google’s lead counsel, questioned Pichai about the deal at the heart of the case: Google’s contract with Apple that makes Google the default search engine on Apple’s Safari web browser.

The Apple deal “makes it very, very seamless and easy for users to use our services," Pichai said. “We know that making it the default will lead to increased usage of our products and services, particularly Google search in this case. So there is clear value in that and that’s what we were looking for." Google paid $26.3 billion to be the default search engine on mobile phones and web browsers in 2021, according to a slide entered into evidence on Friday by the Justice Department. Analysts say most of that money is paid to Apple.

Write to Miles Kruppa at miles.kruppa@wsj.com and Jan Wolfe at jan.wolfe@wsj.com

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