No winners in Google-Microsoft spat, but one clear loser: Users everywhere

Not content to fight over, er, everything, tech giants battle over YouTube and HTML -- at the expense of the user experience

They are the rock-'em-sock-'em robots of high tech. But no matter how many swings they take at each other, neither Google nor Microsoft is ever likely to land a knockout blow.

Last May, Microsoft released a YouTube app for Windows Phone that allowed users to download videos while not displaying those annoying YouTube ads. Google immediately sent Microsoft a cease-and-desist order and made Redmond take the app down.

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Earlier this week, the new, improved YouTube app returned to the Windows Store. This one shows ads, forbids downloads, and tacks on a few other nifty upload features. Google immediately blocked it, saying it still failed to meet its terms and conditions -- primarily, that it was not written in HTML5.

Don't hold back

Now Microsoft has taken the spat public. In an extraordinarily lucid, pull-no-punches blog post yesterday, Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard wrote:

We temporarily took down our full-featured app when Google objected to it last May, and have worked hard to accommodate Google's requests. We enabled Google's advertisements, disabled video downloads and eliminated the ability for users to view reserved videos. ...

There was one sticking point in the collaboration. Google asked us to transition our app to a new coding language -- HTML5. This was an odd request since neither YouTube's iPhone app nor its Android app are built on HTML5. Nevertheless, we dedicated significant engineering resources to examine the possibility. At the end of the day, experts from both companies recognized that building a YouTube app based on HTML5 would be technically difficult and time consuming, which is why we assume YouTube has not yet made the conversion for its iPhone and Android apps.

For this reason, we made a decision this week to publish our non-HTML5 app while committing to work with Google long-term on an app based on HTML5. We believe this approach delivers our customers a short term experience on par with the other platforms while putting us in the same position as Android and iOS in enabling an eventual transition to new technology. Google, however, has decided to block our mutual customers from accessing our new app.

Howard added:

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

Hmm, that sounds awfully familiar. Where have we heard that kind of thing before? Oh yeah, from Microsoft. Just two days ago I wrote about how Redmond would allow only a hobbled Dropbox app into its Windows 8 store. I'm sure Microsoft had some technical reasons why it was too difficult to fully enable Dropbox in Win H8. I'm also certain the real reason is that Microsoft really wants you to use SkyDrive.

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