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Google’s European President Brittin Undertakes New Charm Offensive
Seeking to improve image with regulators, Google subtly changes course.
Google seems to be striking a more humble and conciliatory tone in Europe — out of necessity. Eric Schmidt, the primary face of Google in Europe, now appears to be stepping aside in favor of Matt Brittin, a UK native and the head of Google’s European operations.
Schmidt can be charming but can also come off as insufficiently concerned about the different values and standards of Europeans. The fact that he’s an American doesn’t help.
With multiple investigations and complaints against Google throughout Europe and settlement negotiations at something of an impasse, the company appears to have decided to pursue a different course.
Politico conducted a wide-ranging interview with Brittin (whose name is symbolic of the new approach). While Google has always said it wants work out negotiated solutions in Europe, Brittin signaled a more “respectful” approach:
Matt Brittin, who oversees Google’s European activities, said in his first interview addressing the anti-trust charges lodged against the company in April, that while the search engine giant disagrees with the accusations, it remains open to a settlement agreement.
“We want to be pragmatic and get to a point where we can continue to invest in building great products for everyone,” he said.
Brittin acknowledged that Google had failed to explain its business and vision to policymakers in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe, and said that the company was trying to adjust its American-rooted Silicon Valley image.
Brittin emphasized that the vast majority of his 9,000 employees in Europe are themselves European. “We get it,” he offered. However he also said “we respectfully disagree” with the positions of the European Commission and various complainants in Europe.
Brittin offered two lines of defense. He said the mobile market and internet generally were more competitive than ever. He mentioned apps as an implied source of competition and alluded to Facebook without naming the company.
It remains to be seen if the new charm offensive works and whether Google can appease its critics without making the kinds of dramatic changes that they’re calling for.