Google's acquisition of travel software company ITA for $700 million has just been approved today by the U.S. Justice Department after 8 months of deliberation. It was a difficult decision because the acquisition could obliterate competition in the travel search industry. Travel websites such as Kayak and TripAdvisor depend on the ITA software and fear they would lose access to it once Google acquires the company. Luckily for them, the Justice Department has set some conditions in their approval.
The Justice Department established that Google must continue to license the software to ITA clients and maintain firewalls to hide ITA clients' proprietary information. They also must continue to fund, research, and develop the software at the same levels at which ITA has invested in recent years. ITA's next-generation InstaSearch product that is currently under development must also be further developed for ITA's clients.
Additionally, Google is not allowed to enter into agreements with airlines that could restrict the airline from sharing seating and booking information with Google's competitors. Should Google break any of these terms, competitors can submit formal complaints for arbitration.
Microsoft's Bing search engine has already partnered up with Kayak early last month in preparation for battle should the Google-ITA deal get the green light. They've introduced the "autosuggest flight" and "price predictor" features and plan to further integrate Kayak into Bing for more comprehensive flight listings. It will be interesting to see what travel search features are to come from Google after this acquisition. Although the deal is worrisome for competing travel sites, it may bring welcome new travel features for consumers.