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Google’s problem with Windows Phone and does it matter?

In a recent interview Google stated they will not devote any resources to making apps for either Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8. They have also now ceased consumer support for ActiveSync.  Some are calling it ‘war’ while others passionately question if Windows Phone can survive without Google products and services.

The relationship between Google and Microsoft has always been somewhat hostile. In many ways the battle they engage in now can be seen as a kind of echo from a distant technological past. Google have dug in their heels and to some degree shown their true colours by declaring zero support for Microsoft’s newest operating systems, Windows Phone and Windows 8.

But does it matter and has anything really changed?

Core Microsoft Services

I mentioned an echo of previous battles past as it is by looking back that we get a good measure of the forces that have shaped the Google of today. It is impossible to talk of Google’s plans and current product line up without talking about Eric Schmidt. He has been at war with Microsoft for most of his long career, manning the defiant guns at both Sun Microsystems and Novell, two of Microsoft’s previously biggest competitors. Both of those companies have fallen by the wayside but Eric Schmidt has perhaps never stopped fighting that war, he is a true veteran of this on-going conflict.

"They [Google] realised long ago that it was not enough to exist as a semi-parasitic add-on for Microsoft Windows or to only live in a browser.."

Eric Schmidt was put in charge of Google to guide the young company through the painful early years and during that time he has moulded the company into what it is today. This is a company that matches Microsoft product-for-product in almost every category. Even though Google is a search company at its core it has invested time and money into developing its own operating system (Android, Chrome) and even a productivity suite. So transfixed with competing with Microsoft often they are happy to dump them in the marketplace for free, Google Docs is a perfect example of this.

There are of course many reasons why Google has chosen to make its own operating systems, they realised long ago that it was not enough to exist as a semi-parasitic add-on for Microsoft Windows or to only live in a browser.  As an advertising company it is their goal to know as much about you as possible. When it came to Desktop Windows, users didn’t feel too comfortable with Google Search riffling through their files on the hard drive. No, they needed to build their own OS and bake in this data collection from the get go. A new delivery system to ensure their supply of user information is never cut off or restricted was required, hello Android OS.

The recent ‘news’ announcement on not committing time or resources to developing for Windows Phone is somewhat disingenuous. Google has no presence on Windows Phone at all (save for a lousy search "app") they have not committed any resources since the platform launched. Google search on Windows Phone is one of the most basic apps available, barely enough to call itself a real app. Perhaps just a placeholder on the Windows Phone Store in case someone else takes their name? Google on Windows Phone is not an app, not by any stretch of the imagination. Why would they bother?

"Does Windows Phone need Google and its services to be successful, no."

So we often hear how Google make apps for Apples iOS devices and that example is held high by many who wish to make something of the lack of Google apps for Windows Phone. Often they fail to explore the real reasons why. The reason why Google is present on iOS is two–fold, it has sufficient numbers of users to data mine and it has a weak collection of service offerings. It is easy for Google to provide alternative search, maps and even mail on Apple’s iOS devices because Apple is either missing entirely some services or doesn’t have the same level of depth in some offerings. It is something Apple has been working hard to rectify but after their maps fiasco backfired so publicly they might be feeling too burnt to try that again. For now, Google will benefit from all the data points that iPhone users will provide as they trundle about using their Google maps platform. Google for the time being have a place on iOS because they can offer Apples users something which Apple cannot itself.

In many ways Microsoft and Google seemingly have something to compete with the other in almost every product field. Both companies by their own endeavours now look staggeringly similar, Search, Mail, Operating Systems, Productivity Software, Mobile and Mapping. Google roll most of their products into the Android platform, this is their delivery system and if you are invested in Google products and services this is where you can find them all. 

On the Microsoft side there is currently no better place to experience the full gamut of Microsoft’s services line-up than what you find Windows Phone. Is it here more than anywhere else that the future betting and eco system play can be seen clearly, Microsoft like Google owns the full stack.

Some Google Services

Google Web Apps

The question has to be asked, where would Google fit onto a device that has Bing search hardwired into a dedicated search button? By integrating Bing into Windows Phone by way of a dedicated physical button Microsoft has clearly determined there is no place for Google search on their newest platform. It’s possible this early first move may have been sufficient to keep Google away from Windows Phone.

"It simply doesn’t leave much wiggle room for Google to offer a compelling set of apps"

Microsoft has invested countless millions into building out an entire web platform to compete with Google, much in the same way Google built its own OS to do the same. As a result Microsoft has a fully realised web eco system, SkyDrive, Office on the Web, Outlook, Bing and MSN to name a few headliners. In many cases they offer a far better experience to Google’s offerings both on the web and on their Android devices.

Two services which get the most attention are Gmail and Google Docs. Does it damage the Windows Phone platform to have to ‘settle’ with Outlook and Office as alternatives? I think not, what Microsoft offers here are both best in class, thanks in no small part to the success of Google Docs and Gmail.

Windows Phone Microsoft Apps and Services

Microsoft apps and services Windows Phone 8

There is no question that Google doesn’t produce fantastic products: search, mail and maps are held high as good examples. At present both companies offer pretty much the same services, in some cases they are better; in some cases they are worse. The problem for Windows Phone is that Microsoft has done such a good job of integrating all their offerings into one device. It simply doesn’t leave much wiggle room for Google to offer a compelling set of apps.

We are moving to a world where these eco systems will finally close, Google is rapidly reaching an inflection point where it may finally be able to shake off Microsoft and Apple. All three tech giants are moving to a place where they simply offer it all, similar to the mega supermarket chains that offer everything from Groceries to Insurance plans.

In time we’ll figure out which one we like best, get the loyalty card and for the most part choose which one we prefer, maybe stray occasionally for a touch of variety. The situation we see with Google and its stance with Windows 8 and Windows Phone could at some point be mirrored when Apple does what Microsoft have and close the gaps in their services.

SkyDrive + Eco System Sync

Eco System Sync - SkyDrive connecting the dots..

The war of course doesn’t end with Windows Phone, Microsoft have far bigger guns to bring into play in this skirmish. Windows 8 has just launched, with that comes an operating system built from the ground up to be the embodiment of Microsoft’s vast eco system.  All of its main services are built right in, Maps, Cloud Storage, Online Store, Xbox, Mail and Bing search. Where is the space for Google to offer something Microsoft cannot?  There is also the highly successful proxy war that Microsoft is holding behind closed doors to secure revenue from device makers selling Android devices.

"Microsoft itself holds the key to Windows Phone becoming a successful platform.."

It is fair for Google to choose to not develop for a platform that doesn’t really need it but suggesting this is because it a lack of users is just hot air. Adding more fuel to the fire Google has now removed the ability to use ActiveSync with its services for consumers (paid Google Apps subscribers can still have access). It is clear they are willing to alienate a huge tract of their user base to drawn the line in the sand with their eco system, if you want to use their stuff you’ll need to go directly to them. Will they use the same strong-arm tactics with Apple when the time comes?  By proxy iOS users are all already loyal Google fans, look at the return of the maps to see how much so.

To hear Google reject Windows 8 is something new. Only time will tell if they have to eat a serious portion of humble pie and build out their offering there.

Does Windows Phone need Google and its services to be successful? No. The fate of Windows Phone and its adoption in the marketplace does not rest in the hands of Google. Microsoft itself holds the key to Windows Phone becoming a successful platform, rapid evolution of its cloud services and integration with the rest of the MS eco system. 

388 Comments
  • I don't think WP succes depends on Google, or Google success depends on supporting WP. But when these companies start being aholes with each other, only the consumer loses in the end. Do I was a better youtube/gmail app, sure. I wont dump WP due to not having it though. But if they played together nicely, we would be better off.
  • Thing is, Google's apps aren't best in class anyway. MetroTube is superior to any Google-made YouTube app on Android or iOS. Only since Google adopted (copied?) the Metro UI style for all their offerings have their apps actually become usable. And the Play store is an absolute mess. If only Google didn't own YouTube, I for one could be completely free of Google all together.
  • Yup:
    MS need an answer to YouTube
    MS need "search by date" in BING
    Then I would be rid of the spy in the sky Google.
    MS needs an alternative to iTunes Match
    Then I would be rid of Apple too :)
    Microsoft have released some great products recently, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and Windows Surface.
    They just need to polish the heck out of them.
    The phone needs custom sounds for email, sort order for Inbox, and lots of other small customisations (like do not disturb etc)
    They always seem to get soooo close. I'm hoping they get the job done, as I trust MS more than I trust Google and Apple just cannot do cloud services well.
  • Microsoft has xbox musix which is better than iTunes. You can get a music pass that lets you download unlimited music (can only be played if you have a WP, xbox or Windows Computer) or you can just buy the music and use it any where.
  • Except the Xbox Music app in Windows 8 is even worse than iTunes.
  • How do you figure? I was an iTunes user for years, and I've had nothing but ease with the Xbox Music app in Windows 8 and on Windows Phone 8 :)
  • you can stream music on Xbox Music for W8 for free. Does iTunes do that?
  • WRONG! In theory the way the app works it may be better than itunes and other music services but if you compare the Xbox music app to Zune it is an abortion gone bad in the sun, and i am being kind here. I am a long time Zuner and imo, the Xbox music app is crap. It is slow, it is hard to buy music on, there is no related tab. Heres an idea MS, take zune, rebrand it Xbox music and release that then youll have an awesome music app. Or get to fixing this broken piece of crap you call a music app. Oh yea, and why not allow Zune ztyle SS on the WP8 if it is charging? And where is my zune colored theme on my wp8....i could go on but you get the picture.
  • MrDeezus is totally on point. I have been an early adopter for WinPhone7, WP8, Windows 8 (from the first consumer preview) and the first thing I have done on any PC I've owned is install the Zune Software. It was the holy grail for MS because it didn't "just work", it worked flawlessly. It was a fantastic piece of software and I waved goodbye to iTunes and only ever used WMP to watch movies in unusual video formats.  When I bought my Lumia 920 I plugged it straight in to my PC and expected Zune to load...it did not and there has been nothing acceptable by way of a replacement from Microsoft in the 12 months since WP8 launched. The desktop "app" is like something from the last century and while the Windows 8 Phone app works fine, it's not a complete solution like Zune was.  Zune needs to be running on 8.1 RT and 8.1 x86/x64. Rename it if you want, but make it happen. Xbox Music on Win 8.1 is a massive improvement, no question, but i'd still rather use WMP. On the Surface2 I'm trying to get MediaMonkey to place nicely but I really do miss Zune. 
  • Well, this may be true compared to iTunes Match. But after all both are pretty weak. I'm a rdio subscriber and I expect my music streaming service to be available everywhere: Browser, desktop, smartphone, iPad, on the big living room stereo via Airplay (seriously MS, where is DLNA for WP8?). Neither iTunes nor Xbox music can offer that.
  • IDK about WP in general but Nokia has an official release for DLNA Q1 2013. This is what a developer working on the application said over at Nokia Beta Labs.
    He said that some dependancies needed to be updated before the Nokia DLNA app would support the higher resolution screens on the new devices. He also said these were Nokia deliverables not MS so I imagine they will get it done as Nokia has really great support for its devices.
  • Agreed.  I was just thinking the same thing about video.  MS needs to own controlling intrest in Vevo and offer it as a compettitor to Youtube.  I simply do not care for Google and its IOS ways.
  • As much as I'd like to kick Google out of my life, I don't see anything being competition to youtube for a while. It's entrenched as "the" online video site. There are others, but nothing that can hold a candle to youtube. If Microsoft bought another company and poured money into it, it would be another Bing...a service that doesn't quite compare for the average user, and a massive money sink for MSFT.
  • Personally to me gmail is not the best and even is not user friendly app of mail exisdtent on the world, nobody have used gtalk or even  hangouts and google calendar and   docs thing is not that great, youtube  just gained relevance because people use it like what has happened with what apps but    microsoft could made their own unlimited service of video on the cloud like youtube,  and we the users of  windows phone can demmand more efforts to microsoft because they do software from more of 20 years and could make it more efforts if they wanted to do it or  will to do it,  i find a ridiculous thing that somes features of windows phone and in special of bing  be just avalaible in north america and certain  countries of Europe, that restriction do not do any well to the users that do not want to  depend of google services.   i find even riduculous that   services like yahoo or AOL  do not create apps for windows phone  i  use mostly msn and yahoo services and i find exceptionally good their services, already exist an gap to fill up behind just google  ecosystems   we have to put something in clear google only is known by google search and Android  nothing else, if you do an survey and ask who use the entire service og g mail will see that  less of 30 percent use it and many uses hotmail or aka outlook and etc, if you ask by google the first thing that come to people is search stuffs on the web, if ask by windows or microsoft many will say windows of  inmediate way.
  • Dude WTH are you talking about? MS needs an alternative to iTunes? XBox Music. The phone needs custom sounds for email? You can DO THAT yourself. 
  • That's a opinion. I prefered the android app to metrotube and supertube.
  • Isn't the YouTube app just an extension of the mobile site?
  • Yes... Takes you to m.youtube.com.
  • Does the Android google app allow downloading?
  • Then I'll add my opinion: MetroTube is better than other YouTube apps on any smartphone platform...IMO.
  • You`ve got my vote. I HAD an android and switched to WP8. Was discouraged by the youtube app but the METROTUBE app wich i have on trial is EXCELENT and definitly worth the 99 cents. Im buyin it. 
  • if Google thinks that this will make anyone switch to the vomit mess called Android, they're dreaming.
     
    I just finished transferring all my emails from my old Gmail account to my brand new (and shiny) Outlook using Microsoft’s TrueSwitch. It took about a day to transfer all my emails.
    Bye bye suckers!
     
  • MetroTube is Brilliant. I have never seen a better YouTube app, and I never even knew it existed until I read this post. Just bought it for WP8 for a dollar.
  • MetroTube? no offence, but i've never heard of it.
  • great piece
  • At this point, I agree that Google does not need both WP8 and W8 because the market share is too inconsequential to be useful to them. But as soon as userbase increases to near 20%, Google will be there in a sec. Google is a snoop by nature and they won't sit still until they "know" exactly what W8 & WP8 users are doing when there are enough of them.
  • I think you have it half right, Google's success doesn't depend on Windows Phone, but I'm not buying another Windows Phone because I'm sick of not having access to even a tiny fraction of the great apps available on IOS and Android. I've lobbied several companies to port the apps I need to Windows Phone over the last 2 years and they have shown zero interest in the platform. At this point sticking with Windows Phone feels about as productive as throwing away a vote on a 3rd party candidate.
  • Except that apparently Nokia and HTC have sold more Windows Phones now than they have over the past two years, and interest in the platform is finally gaining momentum. Over the next year or two, I believe we'll finally see some momentum.
     
    Microsoft is finally marketing the way they should have two years ago, companies are releasing great hardware, and customers are taking note that there's more out there.
  • You nor anyone else has seen any numbers. So you're pretty much just talking out ur....
  • I have not used Xbox music, but Zune was far superior to iTunes, so if Xbox music is different I am sad. @spd- you were making valid points until you tossed in the throwing away your vote for a 3rd party candidate. A person never "throws" away a vote. I'll leave it at that. Did not want to go off topic.
  • I`ve ditched android for WP8 and i can not remeber ONE app i had on android that i miss in WP8. I`ve got all that i need and then some (mind you i´m not a instagram user nor plan on being anytime soon). Maybe you`re feeling left out cause of instagram, is it?
  • the only thing that I use that's google is youtube, so google can F*** off!!!!
  • Yep!!!!
  • +1
  • Exactly.
  • +1
  • Funny how you say f*** google then you go ahead and use youtube. Hyprotical MS fanboy is hypocritical.
  • He's not being hypocritical. Who's being the fan boy here??
  • YouTube is a worthwhile property of Google. I have to like Google as a whole in order to like using YouTube to avoid being a hypocrite in your world? If so, call me a hypocrite and like you alter the definition to suit your perspective, I'll consider the source of the attempted insult.
  • No. At one point you go 'fuck Google' and stuff like 'i hate google' and then you chug along using YouTube all day. Not you specifically but the general trend here. And yes that is precisely what a hypocrite is.
  • Actually, a hypocrate is someone who tells others one thing and then does the opposite.  So, if he had said "Everyone should stop using all Google services" but then he continuted to use google services, he would then be a hipocrate.  By stating he doesn't like google but continues to use a google service does not make him a hypocrate.  So no, that is NOT precisely what a hypocrite is.
  • I believe YouTube wasn't originally a google feature. Didn't Google buy out YouTube? Bunch of idea stealing, money sucking selfish... You finish the line.
  • Your point is stupid. I hate Google. I tolerate YouTube for content viewing, but make no mistake I use AdBlocking to prevent the aspects that displease me. I find Chinese slave labor to be offensive, and I can advocate and support initiatives to stop it, but I still have to buy products that probably came from FoxConn. That doesn't make someone a hypocrite no matter how you want to twist the word to suit your moronic point.
  • Same here. If Adblock was unable to block ads on YouTube I would not use that site.
  • Good point dalydose. I used YOUTUBE long before it became the property of google and with that, F google.
  • This comment. . . . This is why we can't have nice things!
  • Guess what? I was a religious Youtube user before Google came and pissed all over the walls with their ads. Its the only Google service I use. I also say F Google. See ya! You won't be missed!
  • Google Video was a fail, so they bought Youtube. Since they bought it, they have ruined it. Every new layout they have made is unusable. Fuck Google!
  • google is threaten by microsoft because it can put its os on any device, cheap phones and expensive phones, they also have bing, and bing is getting really good, they also have office.....if micosoft buys htc or nokia or makes there own phone then google is really going to feel it....microsoft is making smartglass for android, and making office for android, if people get use to that, one day android users will just say hey i should just buy an orginal windows phone...this is microsoft, google trying to not make maps and email for windows phone is not good because, people can live without there services.... you can always search google on windows ie, and youtube, the rest means nothing...
  • Microsoft will not buy HTC. They are too invested in Android to just give all that up. I can easily see Microsoft buying Nokia, since they are Microsoft's main Windows Phone partner, and the entire future of the company hinges on its success.
  • Yepper. Me 2.
  • This.
  • +1, no more tracking me, deleting everything google from my devices
  • Yep, I could care less about Google's other services. If Google blocked YouTube services from the Windows Platforms, then I'd angry.
  • +1
  • Glad I got all my contacts and calendar on my Hotmail account.
  • Hear, hear.
  • I switched from hotmail because I had so many problems with spoofing on hotmail.
    Not really pleased I may have to switch again
  • You should look again:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vhxicZxqFv0
  • Bravo, well said ....now,  if I could only get these trolls from Engadget to see this....
  • Meh. Who cares about them?
  • Yea, that article Darren wrote was an editorial but it was so one sided it...as if Microsoft's future wholly depends on google. This is just competition folks. This article, being on WPcentral is obviously one sided too, but it's a lot more objective than engadget.
  • I don't know much about engadget. But if this site is one sided it's acceptable, IMO. According to the site's title.
  • People still read Engadget??
  • +1
  • Unfortunely, it is hard to find good tech blogs these days that are not one sided.  One good thing about engadget is that I will always know they are apple fanboi's so when I look and read through their articles, I can read some new things about technology and be able to filter through the fanboi crap.
  • The Verge is even worse. Their hate for Microsoft is so obvious that they make Engadget seem unbiased.
  • exactly this. The Verge is even worse than Engadget
  • I don't...
  • +1
  • Engadget is one of the biggest tech blogs out there, along with Gizmodo and Wired.
  • Ohh ya.. There used to be Engadget app on my WP. Can't even remember if I had that app after my reset.
  • The Verge is even worse. Their hate for Microsoft is so obvious that they make Engadget seem unbiased.
  • why is verge and endgadget so bias? Who owns, runs the sites? I stopped reading both sites because the articles were bad. What did MS do piss in their soup?
  • Engadget is owned by AOL.
  • My biggest annoyance is the junk mobile Google website I always get
  • Exactly. When I first got a wp7 a year earlier, the google website looked just like it did on an iPhone or android. Now it's just the crappy wap version. They also used to maintain a public transit directions site for wap browsers that functioned well with wp7. Not anymore though. Google news also recently switched from the touch mobile layout to the wap version (on IE9 with a wp7). Gmail on IE9 is terrible as well. In fact the entire google experience on WP is pathetic. Looks like they're doing this on purpose to alienate WP users and get them to switch to android.
  • It's true. They do intentionally make the experience terrible. The question remains: at what point is Google alienating itself instead of WP users?
  • When the average user sees that Google's services are poor on WP, but great on iOS and Android, Microsoft will be blamed, not Google. As long as the general public doesn't know better, Google isn't alienating itself at all.
  • But it will likely have the opposite effect. WP users won't switch to Android, but stop using Google services all together.
  • It's strange because mobile YouTube works well as well as Google Reader but Gmail looks like total shit. Google is obviously threatened by WP, have you noticed how tech blogs are slowly starting to mention WP now? Even if its offhand its something we've never had before.
  • That's because by default IE will show you the mobile version of the site.
    Go to the settings and change it to the desktop site and you will get the same experience as with Windows on desktop.
    I for once have switched to Bing and not looking back.
    Note: You can also change the default search provider in WP8 to Google in the settings so you don't have to load the site first but just enter your query in the IE address bar.
  • I have IE set to show the full site and Google is just about the only site I've found that bypasses that. In my experience I've found that Bing isn't quite as good.
  • I used to think google was better, I cannot say that now. Especially when I read google will alter searches based on $$$ from companies. I only Bing search now...
  • That's only in Google Shopper where they do that. And if they don't do it now, Bing will eventually, if only to stop bleeding out cash.
  • I'd disagree, the built in Bing search tool is far ahead of a browser search.
  • Once again , why u guys keep talking about google , What is that ? Imma look it up on Bing on my Lumia 920 :)
  • Hahaha!
  • He he he :D
  • Nice!
  • Zing
  • +1
  • Everything matters, we will see how much.
  • I think the ecosystem is actually what makes WP so compelling. Of course, ecosystem in this case means more than just 'apps,' it's consistent user experience across platforms and form factors, interoperability with services and ease of transition in between. The Google EAS drama is nothing to worry about - if people are Google centric and feel Android is a better platform for the day-to-day, they're probably already on it.
  • Why is there a need for google apps on windows 8. Before windows 8 we were all just using google through website and it was the whole experience and imo the best.