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Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals

In 2000, when the Clinton administration was intent on breaking up Microsoft, CEO Bill Gates said his company only looked unassailable. Microsoft, he said, was actually vulnerable to being toppled by any number of as-yet-unseen Davids. Government anti-trust lawyers — and much of the country — scoffed. Just a few years later, in walked Google.

Driving the news: Now Google seems unassailable and, against fierce criticism that it is far too big, CEO Sundar Pichai is arguing much the same as Gates — that his company only seems impregnable.

"There’s a lot of competition amongst big companies. ... For the first time, I think there is more international competition than ever before, and I think that’s going to hold true."
— Pichai, to Axios

The backdrop: Bigness in corporate America is under increasing scrutiny by regulators and scholars who link it to stagnant wages and anti-competition. Together, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet, Google's parent, make up 1% of the companies in the S&P 500, but nearly 15% of the wealth.

But in interviews this week, when Axios asked Pichai and Gates how they are reckoning with the backlash against bigness, they defended it.

  • Gates warned against slamming bigness for its own sake. No big company in the U.S. — in fact, no industry — merits anti-trust action, he argued.
  • Pichai offered a patriotic defense: "There are some advantages of big companies, which is we do invest for the long term in foundational technologies," he said. "Areas like AI or quantum computing, all this will no doubt ... end up being big drivers of U.S. leadership, economic growth."
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Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 10 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.