Sunday, 18 August 2013

Being Evil?

The question of the week for all Windowsphone users is perhaps is Google being 'evil'. The Google mantra is 'Don't be evil' but this week they banned the Youtube app for Windowsphone for the second time.

The whole story is a bit strange and Paul Thurott's Supersite for Windows is one of the best authorities for this. The shorthand for the situation is that Google have not created a Youtube app for Windowsphone. In the USA Windowsphone has just a 3% market share (elsewhere somewhat higher) so there are no commercial pressures on Google to do this. Although you might argue since Blackberry is now disappearing fast Windowsphone is the third ecosystem.

So to get over this little difficulty Microsoft created their own Youtube app for Windowsphone. Google blocked it because it violated their terms of service. By this they seemed to mean it didn't serve Google ads and didn't use the Google API. Microsoft said they were happy to modify the app but Google had not given them access to the API like other developers. The two sides then seemed to have a 'love in' and agreed to co-operate. All was well and a new app came out this week. However 24 hours later it was blocked again for violating Google's terms of service. This was a bit strange because they (Google) was supposed to be working with Microsoft.

Google's explanation was that the app wasn't using HTML 5. This was somewhat bizarre because, as Microsoft said, neither the Android versions of Youtube apps or the IOS versions used HTML 5. The excuse looks spurious and perhaps a little bit like kicking the small guy. In this situation small is correct.

Microsoft has a minuscule portion of the mobile phone market, a small segment of Internet search and no presence in the social media sphere. They are the new kid on the block. Their 90%+ share of the PC market gives them no advantage here. Google is the market leader and dominates the mobile space with Android. The Linux crowd and the 'free' software crowd might be cheering at Microsoft being pwned by Google but there is a problem.

Microsoft have spent 18 months targeting Google with some relentless ribbing about their 'free' business model. The talk about being Scroggled. They claim that the 'cost' of Gmail is that your private mail is read by Google and then keywords are extracted to drive ads to your mailbox. Unlike the security services reading your mail this is just a commercial activity. Microsoft have also run a 'bing it on' campaign where they allowed people to blind test the results of their Bing search engine against Google. I have never really heard of anyone 'binging' an answer but the idea was to point out how good Microsoft search was. The campaign also criticised Google's shopping results as really just being another set of ads where paid ads ranked results higher rather than the best match for a shopping query regardless of advertising.

Whether these criticisms are valid or not there is a clash of business models. Microsoft is the traditional vendor of paid for software and services. Google is the 'free' provider as long as you accept the advertising. It is fair of Microsoft to point out that with Google you are the product that they sell to advertisers.

The irony is now that for a long time Microsoft were the great satan in the software world. People wore the badge of 'free' software and 'free' Google services with pride. They felt liberated from big corporations and perhaps felt that Google was an ethical company that functioned with higher moral values. It must be a shock to these purists that Google is a big corporation and can act exactly the same. This is what seems to be coming out of this dispute.