There's nothing wrong with Google blocking Microsoft's YouTube app

It's Google's toy -- they get to choose whether to stop playing with Microsoft and run home to mommy. That's business, people...!
Written by Matt Baxter-Reynolds, Contributor
YouTube and Windows Phone

My favourite brouhaha for a while has been the on-again, off-again, "I'm taking my ball home!" battle between Microsoft and Google about Microsoft's YouTube app on Windows Phone.

If you've missed it so far, it's something like this. Microsoft built a YouTube app for Windows Phone. Google didn't like it because it didn't display ads properly (and hence limited Google's monetisation). Microsoft fixed it. Google still didn't like it and blocked it. My ZDNet colleague Mary Jo Foley explains the details properly, as ever.

Cue a huge fallout on Twitter with Windows Phone users accusing Google of acting inappropriately. (Although the language was stronger...)


The mechanics of what's going on here isn't really important. What I'm seeing is a general attitude out there that is some sort of moral argument that Google should go out of their way to make a YouTube app happen on Windows phone, whether that's one Google build themselves, or help Microsoft to build.

There's a weird attitude of entitlement, like if you happen to buy a Windows Phone and it doesn't do something you want, why is Google is to blame? A Windows Phone user doesn't get some automatic entitlement that their favourite services -- ahem Instagram -- will be supported on their device of choice.

The objective of any business acting in strong competition is to defend themselves against competitors, whilst not falling foul of legislation to prevent unfair practice.

One way a business can defend itself is by differentiation. If the experience of using YouTube on an mobile device is equally good on all platforms, it stops being a differentiator. Walled gardens on platforms exists for a reason. Why do you think you can't play your iTunes purchases on your Android phone? Yet now one is screaming blue murder about that.

Google is being perfectly reasonable, and frankly rational in their behaviour.

Of course, the facts of this as reported by Mary Jo are still wooly and, to my eyes, wildly illogical on Google's part. But regardless of the secret whys and wherefores known only to Google's management, it's their service and they make the rules. If the rule is, "Microsoft, you must write an HTML5 app", that's the rule.

If someone buys a Windows Phone device and a deal-breaker for them is that it supports YouTube, they shouldn't have bought a Windows Phone device. Similarly if someone buys an Android phone because they want to use Siri, they too have made the wrong choice.

I know that's harsh, but that's the only sensible way to look at it. No one who creates services is obliged to put those services anywhere other than where they, as creators, want them to be put.

Frankly, guys and gals, you made your bed...


What is missing though is a sense of professional deportment. This is a horrible mess and -- as my ZDNet colleague Larry Seltzer discusses -- Google isn't exactly covering itself in glory.

If Google wants to protect its revenue stream to YouTube, as well as control competition, the appropriate way to do this is to set-up a partner program together with adequate resources to police it. In this context, Microsoft would be Google's customer, and would have proper channels to communicate rather than relying on having counsel issue blog posts/open letters for all to see.

Of course, it's a double-edged sword. Windows Phone may now be so popular and worrying Google that any way they can find to starve it of oxygen. Or, Windows Phone may be so inconsequential that Google simply doesn't care.

Back to Seltzer's point, this does show Microsoft in a better light morally, but marketing-wise it's embarrassing. I suspect that blog post/open letter is to make sure Windows Phone customers feel supported, but actually it makes Windows Phone as a platform look weak. If it were bigger and more important in the market, it wouldn't need Microsoft throwing its weight around.

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

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