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Google to Microsoft: No HTML5, No YouTube App

The war of the words between tech giants Microsoft and Google heated up considerably this week when Google blocked a relaunched YouTube app for Windows Phone, causing Microsoft to lash out and question the validity of Google’s complaints.

“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,” wrote David Howard, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for litigation and antitrust, in a blog post on Thursday.

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

‘A Consistent Experience’

Prior to this week’s re-release, Microsoft’s YouTube app was also pulled by Google back in May. Among several requests Google made for the app’s reappearance was that it use HTML5.

Microsoft, however, countered that it was unable to do that. Google now says the app violates its terms of service.

“We’re committed to providing users and creators with a great and consistent YouTube experience across devices, and we’ve been working with Microsoft to build a fully featured YouTube for Windows Phone app, based on HTML5,” Google spokesperson Matt McLemon told the E-Commerce Times.

“Unfortunately, Microsoft has not made the browser upgrades necessary to enable a fully featured YouTube experience, and has instead re-released a YouTube app that violates our terms of service,” McLemon said.

Microsoft declined to provide further details.

‘The Br’er Rabbit Fake’

This is far from the first salvo in the ongoing battle between the two tech titans. In this latest round, it is Windows Phone users who are left in the dark — at least when it comes to watching YouTube videos on their handsets.

“This is ‘turn and turn about’ in Silicon Valley,” said Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates. “Microsoft is famous for doing just that: making its app not quite work in someone else’s – e.g., Apple’s – environment.

“It’s the well-known Br’er Rabbit Fake,” Kay told the E-Commerce Times. “‘Throw me anywhere, but not in that briar patch,’ where the briar patch is the code.”

‘A Moving Target’

The problem with Microsoft’s YouTube app is “something of a moving target,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “It was first removed from the Play store for supporting features including video downloading that Google disapproved of.

“After a revised version that disabled those features was submitted earlier this week, Google restored it to Play,” King told the E-Commerce Times. “Then it removed it again due to the lack of support for HTML5.”

What makes this latest move particularly interesting, however, is that Windows Phone has seen a surge in users in the past year, and the platform has even surpassed BlackBerry as the third most popular mobile OS.

In this regard, Google’s move could be seen as an example of cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.

“It’s amazing how relationships change over time,” telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan told the E-Commerce Times. “Early on companies need each other and work together and get along well. Then, over time they start to compete more and more and everything changes.”

Caught in the Crossfire

The biggest losers in such cases often aren’t the companies involved, but their users.

“Users don’t really care about the rotting relationships, they just want their device and software to work, period,” Kagan added. “The battles are just for those who are at war.”

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen which side will prevail.

“If I had to choose the weaker argument, I’d say look at which is making the most noise publicly about the issue — Microsoft,” King said. “The fact is that given the paltry market share of Windows Phone, the company needs YouTube access far more than Google needs Microsoft’s phone customers.”

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