Over the past few days, there have been a few news items concerning Google and its support (or lack thereof) of Windows Phone as a platform. The fact that this comes just around the time that the FTC spared them after a 19-month investigation makes the whole thing even more audacious, if Google is in fact lying.
First, the new items. Just before the FTC investigation concluded, Microsoft posted on their Microsoft On The Issues blog that among other things, Google has actively blocked Microsoft from making a first-class (yet, third party) YouTube app. If you recall, before iOS 6, Apple made the YouTube app on iOS by using Google APIs, including access to key metadata. This metadata is what Google blocked Microsoft from being able to access, resulting in a third-class YouTube app on Windows Phone. Essentially it is a wrapper for the YouTube mobile website, which is a shame.
Then, just after the FTC concluded their investigation, came news reports that Windows Phone users were being redirected to m.google.com when they tried to go to Google Maps mobile site. Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineLand.com has a good summary of the various reports, including Google’s official statement to The Next Web. However, Danny points out that there is something not right, and things don’t add up correctly. Personally, I am almost certain that I was also able to access the Google Maps mobile site on my Windows Phone 7 (which runs Mobile Internet Explorer 9).
Some other tidbits which may be worth noting: Google recently announced that they will be turning off Exchange Active Sync (EAS) access to Google Apps from mobile devices for free Google Apps/GMail users. As a result, if you use their free Google Apps accounts on Windows Phone, you won’t be able to access Contacts and Calendar with 2-way sync/push, and email would only be accessed via IMAP. Also, Google has clearly stated that they have no plans to make native apps on Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 at this time (besides their Search apps, available on both).
So, which is it? Is Google really blocking/redirecting because they are “testing” mobile IE? Or are they just being competitive? Windows 8, despite all its shock-and-awe factors, has something for enterprises to consider especially for the tablet form factor. Windows Phone 8, built on the same Windows 8 core, also has a ton of enterprise-friendly features, and because of the Windows 8 core, has the ability to quickly add complex features and functionality. Despite Android’s massive growth, it is unclear if Google is benefiting much from it, from a bottom line perspective.
Google definitely has enterprise ambitions. They have been very aggressive in their push of Google Apps into enterprises, adding a lot of enterprise IT-friendly features to their suite. They have started pitching Chromebooks to education institutes also very aggressively. By reducing support for their services on their biggest rival’s platform, they can ensure they have another huge sales pitch to consumers as well as, and more importantly, to enterprises.
While there may be some sense in being competitive in such a way, the YouTube and Google Maps issues are certainly counter to their mission to make information universally accessible. Also, of course, given that they derive most of their revenue via ads on these services, it makes sense to increase the number of end points that consume these services, not limit them.
Google is doing a huge disservice to their customers by limiting access to their services. The user has lost in this case, however small that user base is. Hope better senses prevail.
Image: Screenshot from InsideGoogle’s video at Times Square