Google, Microsoft – why can’t you just be friends?

Once again, Microsoft’s YouTube app for Windows Phone has been blocked – but I’m sure you’re aware of that by now.

The real question is why can’t the two giants play nicely? After all, their strategies are very different, and the only people they’re harming is their users.

First let’s take a look at the individual approaches both businesses take.

Google pushes its open policy - after all - the company benefits from having its presence on as many platforms as possible. But of course, Google wants these services to be served efficiently, and therefore - through releasing its own applications - it keeps some amount of control over the experience. The same with Chrome OS and Android.

This open policy allows third party development using their services; there is a myriad of YouTube clients such as the fantastic Jasmine for iOS, or Gmail clients such as Boomerang on Android. So why does Google not release a Windows Phone app? Or allow Microsoft’s own?

Before we get on to that, let’s take a look at Microsoft. The company is traditionally a software company, whilst having a play in the SaaS (software as a service) model. Except Office 365 however, very few Microsoft services threaten Google’s might.

We’ll quickly place the big omission in here, Apple. As a foremost hardware company, Apple offers very little direct threat to Google. The company’s foray into services hasn’t been anywhere near competitive to El Goog (did someone just mention Apple Maps?)

So what is Google’s problem specifically with Microsoft?

Let’s form the obvious excuse - Google doesn’t see Windows Phone as a viable enough platform to warrant spending development time and money on building an app. It hurts, but likely fact.

What was Microsoft’s response for its customers? Spend development time and money on building an app – after all – fits into Goog’s open policy, right? Gives more people access to Goog’s services, right? Well, apparently not.

If we backtrack, Microsoft had previously released a YouTube application which was subsequently banned. At the time, Google asked Microsoft to add support for advertisements – something totally fair and understandable.

Microsoft went away, rebuilt the app (alongside Google) with the requests implemented - only to be banned again. Google has given the reason “it’s not built in HTML5” and therefore “doesn’t comply with their terms”. Well iOS and Android’s applications are also not built in this web standard.

The fact is, native applications run much faster than HTML5. Wouldn’t it be in Google’s interest to have a more optimal experience for YouTube viewers over a sluggish one?

Clearly more tactics are at play here; as Microsoft’s letter to Google ‘The limits of Google’s openness’ explains: “We temporarily took down our full-featured app when Google objected [to it] last May, and have worked hard to accommodate Google’s requests. We enabled Google’s advertisements, disabled video downloads and eliminated the ability for users to view reserved videos.”

It continues: “We did this all at no cost to Google, which one would think would want a YouTube app on Windows Phone that would only serve to bring Google new users and additional revenue.”

The letter is very detailed, and well worth a read. Infact the only problem with it is I want to copy the entire thing in here. Instead, here’s a summarising statement: “It seems to us that Google’s reasons for blocking our app are manufactured so that we can’t give our users the same experience Android and iPhone users are getting.”

“The roadblocks Google has set up are impossible to overcome, and they know it.”

Talk about direct. But now we’ve reached why Google may be treating Microsoft unfairly.

It may not be about the short-term; which Windows Phone is certainly not a threat. It could be around Microsoft and Google’s long-term plans that could clash spectacularly - hardware.

Google has to support Apple; Cupertino owns such a significant share of the hardware market already that there is little stopping them at this point. To not offer your services to such a massive audience would be a serious mistake.

However, Microsoft is starting to get more serious about hardware – Surface, Xbox...

... And guess who else is? Google. Phones built by their Motorola acquisition, Glass, Chromecast...

If Google can prevent Microsoft’s growth, they will - and it looks like that’s already begun.

Between both companies it’s now a race to become a serious hardware player alongside Apple. It’s a lucrative market, and it looks like Google is prepared to use certain strategies to secure their share of the (Key Lime-flavoured?) pie.

Do you think Google has a problem with Microsoft? Could it really be around hardware, or another issue?

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