The heavy hand of Google

Alan Daley Writer, American Consumer Institute
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Google is blocking Microsoft’s YouTube phone application again. When confronted about why the app is being blocked, Google has demanded that Microsoft’s app be written in HTML5, even though neither Google’s Android platform nor Apple’s iPhone used HTML for their YouTube apps.

Microsoft wrote its Windows Phone app for YouTube access in native code. Native code provides a highly superior, extra fast experience for its users.

An analyst skilled in the technology looked for a good technical explanation for Google’s insistence that Microsoft use HTML5. He pondered if Google is developing a class of HTML5 advertisements that it wants Microsoft’s Window Phone to support. However, without extensive re-writes, neither Microsoft nor Android nor iPhone could support those, so that explanation doesn’t ring true.

Google is planning to use YouTube as a content destination, meaning that all clients will soon need to support Digital Rights Management (DRM) and encryption, possible extensions of HTML5. A native coded app could readily handle that, but when compared with HTML5, Google might need to spend extra time certifying those DRM apps are “official.”

Both Google and Microsoft are thinking beyond JavaScript and HTML5, but they are heading in somewhat different directions. Pace the YouTube app scuffle, Google may be trying to steer Microsoft’s decision into a more compatible direction.

This “maybe” is just speculation and no analyst has given a compelling technical explanation for Google’s blocking of Microsoft’s YouTube app. Instead, Google’s obsession with maintaining its dominance in search advertising and other markets has a more convincing “strategic” explanation.

YouTube attracts 1 billion unique visitors watching 6 billion hours of video each month. Google places huge amounts of its client advertising over the YouTube platform, harvesting about $1 per visitor.

Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, has improved to a 21% share versus Google’s 79% and in mobile search revenues Google’s 56% share leads Facebook’s 13%. In mobile search, Microsoft is still nowhere, and Google wants to keep it that way.

Google is the default search application on its Motorola’s DroidTM, FlipsideTM, and XoomTM , plus on the other Android platform devices, and on iPad and iPhone. Only the Kindle uses Bing, and Google wants to keep that situation under control.

Google will do what it can to prevent a competitor from gaining an advantage in mobile software, even one as slim as native code. Any advantage at all can nudge a few search customers to the company with the slicker app.

Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research