June 19, 2024

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai gives ‘rocking 75 minutes’ of tense testimony in Fortnite antitrust trial

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Tuesday was summoned to federal court for the second time in two weeks to testify in an antitrust trial threatening to topple a pillar of an internet empire that he helped build.

In his latest court appearance in San Francisco, Pichai spent more than two hours defending the business practices of the Google Play Store, which distributes apps for the company’s Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones.

At times, the soft-spoken Pichai looked nonplussed and frustrated by the confrontational questioning he faced. Other times he came across as a professor explaining complex subjects to the trial’s 10-person jury located just a few feet from a podium Pichai was allowed to use because he has difficulty sitting for prolonged periods.

Epic Games, the maker of the popular video game Fortnite, is trying to convince the jury that a Google Play payment processing system that collects a 15% to 30% commission from in-app purchases is illegally hurting consumers and software developers. Google collects those commissions, according to Epic, by using its market muscle to thwart competing Android app stores — a strategy that drives up prices and discourages innovation.

It echoes a previous case that Epic brought against Apple, the iPhone maker that is alternately being depicted as Google foe and ally in this trial.

Pichai’s latest testimony came 15 days after he traveled to Washington, D.C., to take the stand in a separate antitrust trial revolving around the Justice Department’s allegations that Google has stifled competition and innovation by abusing the power of the dominant search engine that launched the company in 1998.

Although the two trials are unfolding on opposite ends of the country and are delving into different parts of a company that investors value at $1.7 trillion, they are touching upon at least two common issues — Google’s immense power and its unusual relationship with Apple,…

Michael Liedtke, The Associated Press

2023-11-15 06:05:39

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