Google considers Amazon.com as its biggest search competitor, ahead of traditional rivals like Yahoo and Bing, as people looking to buy something are more likely to search on the online retailer's website.
Amazon.com is more focused on commerce, "but, at their roots, they are answering users questions and searches, just as we are," Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told an audience in Berlin on Monday.
Google is facing antitrust investigations in Europe since 2010, following complaints that it favored its own services in search results, affecting the visibility of competing websites. The company came to terms with the European Commission in February, but the commission has asked it to improve its settlement terms or face charges, following opposition to the deal.
In an apparent bid to counter the antitrust charges against Google, Schmidt emphasized repeatedly in his remarks that people had choice offered not only by other search engines but by specialized sites offering a variety of services such as news, flights, rental cars, insurance or local information.
"We aren't a telecommunications network or an electricity grid, with only one line going to your home, and no competitors allowed. No one is stuck using Google," Schmidt said, according to the text of the speech provided by the company.
The large number of people accessing the Internet through their smartphones also pose a challenge to Google, because they prefer to use apps rather than go directly to a website.
"Seven out of every eight minutes of mobile phone usage is spent within apps. And the most popular app in the world -- including in Europe -- is & Facebook, a company which now describes itself as 'the onramp to the Internet,' Schmidt said on a visit to the headquarters of Native Instruments, a producer of hardware and software for digital music production and for disc jockeys.
The traffic websites like Expedia, Yelp and TripAdvisor get from Google has increased faster than its own traffic since it started showing direct answers to questions, Schmidt said, while pointing out that the traffic going to other services cannot, however, be a measure of success for Google as a search engine. "Put simply, we created search for users, not websites. And thats the motivation behind all our improvements over the last decade," Schmidt added
Google employs 9,000 people in Europe, including over 1,100 in five offices in Germany. The company has made total investments of Euro 4 billion (US$5 billion) over the last four years in Europe, Schmidt said.