On Wednesday, Microsoft VP and General Counsel Dave Heiner posted a blog about the current situation with Google. The FTC has chosen not to pursue an antitrust case against the search giant given certain commitments by Google to avoid anti-competitive behavior and this apparently came as unexpectedly bad news. Speaking in terms both general and specific, Heiner called out Google for making an active effort to prevent Windows Phone users from having access to the sort of quality apps they are able to get on Android and iOS devices.
The most detail goes to a description of the YouTube app problems that Microsoft has been having. So far you will not find a full feature YouTube app for Windows Phone 8. Access to the necessary APIs has not been granted, which prevents Microsoft from accessing the necessary metadata for standard functions like category browsing, rating viewing, favorite video library access, and so on. All that they have been able to provide is what amounts to a shell displaying the YouTube website with none of the richer features usually associated with such an app.
In response to this specific allegation of obstruction, Google spokesman Niki Fenwick said:
Contrary to Microsoft’s claims, it’s easy for consumers to view YouTube videos on Windows phones. Windows phone users can access all the features of YouTube through our HTML5-based mobile website, including viewing high-quality video streams, finding favorite videos, seeing video ratings, and searching for video categories. In fact, we’ve worked with Microsoft for several years to help build a great YouTube experience on Windows phones.
That all amounts to Microsoft complaining about its users being forced to access their content through a web browser and Google confirming that this is exactly what they want to happen, as far as I can tell.
It wouldn’t be such a noteworthy bit of obstruction if not for the context, of course.
Microsoft is trying to break into the top 2-3 smartphone platform spots with Windows Phone 8. As such they have to position themselves as roughly equivalent to both Android and iOS. If only Android had access to YouTube content through a proprietary app then it would be hard to argue with, but given that both of the other major platforms have the same functionality it would be hard to do without such a popular service.
Google has also taken other action against Microsoft’s users recently by disabling EAS for Google Apps users. This makes using Windows Phone devices to handle any Gmail or Google Calendar tasks basically impossible. It even cuts off Windows 8 in a lot of ways. For many users with established Google Apps accounts, it makes a platform switch practically impossible.
Some will claim that this sort of behavior is exactly what Microsoft deserves given their own history of anticompetitive behavior. When it comes down to it, however, this could be enough piled on at once for Microsoft to really push a case for renewed antitrust investigations. If any company knows the ins and outs of those at this point, surely it’s Microsoft.
While the politics are played out and both companies act to block each other, users are going to be stuck in the middle.