We’ve discussed the Google/ITA deal several times over the last, oh, year. There’s been plenty to talk about; after all, the merger itself is huge news, and the massive anti-trust investigation, as well as the back-and-forth swings of that battle, have certainly been of note. For the time being, though, our discussion of ITA will likely come to an end: the acquisition has (finally) been given the thumbs up.
It’s been over a year since news of the acquisition first hit the media, and Google made it official in July of 2010. So why has the deal taken so long? To answer that question, let’s first take another brief glimpse at what ITA is. As a flight search company, ITA aggregates and redistributes flight data. Additionally, they are a developing an instant reservation system that should be launched in the semi-near future. The issue comes with ITA’s massive size – remember, Google is buying the company for $700 million – and their current hold on the market.
Since ITA currently powers the travel search for a number of Google’s competitors (such as Bing) and potential competitors (such as every single flight data search on the web), Google’s ownership could quite easily interfere with fair competition; Google could refuse licensing, halt development in key sectors, or in other ways sabotage opponents. Whether or not Google would have done these things is in question, but even if the “don’t be evil” company now decides to take a swing to the dark side, they won’t be able to use ITA as a weapon.
Among other stipulations in the approval of the acquisition is that Google must:
- Continue the development of the travel software.
- License the travel software to all outside parties, even competitors/potential competitors.
- Implement an internal firewall that prevents Google from accessing the sensitive data of competitors.
The full statement and all restrictions can be found at the Justice Department website. With these caveats in place, Google is now prepared to move ahead, and both Google and ITA representatives have indicated that the companies are enthusiastic to resume this long-delayed acquisition.