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

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Google's official response to Howard's post:

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. 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. It has been disabled. We value our broad developer community and therefore ask everyone to adhere to the same guidelines.

Translation: Neener, neener. I know you are but what am I? See ya, wouldn't want to be ya. And so on.

Agree to disagree

There's quite a long history of this kind of sniping between tech giants. As Cnet's Daniel Terdiman recounts, we've seen similar tussles over Instant Messaging (AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft), Flash (Adobe and Apple), and Twitter and its legions of third-party developers, most explicitly Instagram after it was acquired by Facebook. In some cases, as with IM, the parties ultimately realized that interoperability made a heck of a lot more sense for everyone involved. In other cases (like Flash), the parties will carry this dispute to their graves.

(Personally, though I agree with Apple that Flash mostly sucks, I am often frustrated by my inability to view Flash media on my iPad. Just sayin'.)

Terdiman concludes, rightly I think:

What the technology industry's long history of interoperability skirmishes makes abundantly clear is that things never change, no matter how much the industry's giants pay lip service to putting users first. When profits and control over users' data and loyalty are at issue, more often than not, it's the users themselves who end up as collateral damage.

Yep, what he said. The problem of course is that technology companies are insatiably greedy. They want to own everything and everyone. As a result, they stretch themselves across too many platforms, taking one strength (like desktop operating systems or search) and turning it into a series of weaknesses. We saw it happen with Microsoft in the 1990s, and we're seeing it now with Google.

When you try to be all things to all people, you risk being nothing to no one. That seems obvious to me. Why isn't it obvious to them?

Should Google and Microsoft play nice for the good of the user community? Post your thoughts below or email me:

This article, "No winners in Google-Microsoft spat, but one clear loser: Users everywhere," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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