When Google announced its plan to buy flight information provider ITA this summer, Microsoft quietly complained to the Justice Department, but stayed largely behind the scenes for fear that regulators would view the opposition as just another scrap in the ongoing battle between the companies.
Microsoft has good business reasons for opposing the deal. One of the few areas where Bing has a good edge on Google is travel planning. That’s partly thanks to Microsoft’s 2008 acquisition of Farecast, which shows whether prices on a particular U.S. plane trip are likely to rise or fall. But once users click through to make a purchase on Bing Travel, the actual flight information is powered by ITA.
So why the sudden change of heart? Microsoft hasn’t exactly made a secret of its other lobbying efforts against Google.
One possibility: since the deal was announced, the EU has begun an antitrust investigation into Google. Perhaps Microsoft reasoned that the investigation has tipped the scale of public opinion against Google, making its complaint seem like one more voice of reason rather than two giants sparring.
Microsoft is also going to announce new Bing features at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday. Perhaps some of those features will be related to travel.
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