There's a new anti-trust bully on the block, and its name is Google. So claims Microsoft, charging that the search giant is using its might to impede competition, notably by blocking full access to YouTube by Windows Phone 8 devices.
The charge comes in a blog written by Dave Heiner, Microsoft Vice President & Deputy General Counsel. Heiner starts his blog by writing about antitrust investigations into Google in Europe and the U.S. He writes:
"The future of competition in search is at stake in these investigations. This is important not just for Microsoft, but for the thousands of smaller companies whose businesses depend on a competitive search marketplace. That is why so many companies have made their concerns about Google's misconduct known to regulators on both sides of the Atlantic."
Heiner later writes:
"You might think that Google would be on its best behavior given it's under the bright lights of regulatory scrutiny on two continents, particularly as it seeks to assure antitrust enforcers in the U.S. and Europe that it can be trusted on the basis of non-binding assurances that it will not abuse its market position further."
And that's when he gets to the core of his argument: That Google is blocking Microsoft from developing a fully functional YouTube app by refusing to give Microsoft access to YouTube metadata, even though it makes the data available for iOS and Android YouTube apps. He repeats a claim previously made by Microsoft Senior Vice President & General Counsel Brad Smith that:
"Google has enabled its own Android phones to access YouTube so that users can search for video categories, find favorites, see ratings, and so forth in the rich user interfaces offered by those phones. It's done the same thing for the iPhones offered by Apple, which doesn't offer a competing search service."Unfortunately, Google has refused to allow Microsoft's new Windows Phones to access this YouTube metadata in the same way that Android phones and iPhones do. As a result, Microsoft's YouTube 'app' on Windows Phones is basically just a browser displaying YouTube's mobile Web site, without the rich functionality offered on competing phones."
Smith's blog was written back in March of 2011, and Heiner says that nothing has changed since them. He claims:
"Just last month we learned from YouTube that senior executives at Google told them not to enable a first-class YouTube experience on Windows Phones."
He then adds this zinger:
"Google dismisses these concerns as little more than sour grapes by one of its competitors. But the reality is that consumers and competitors alike are getting 'scroogled' across the Web on a daily basis from this type of misconduct."
I don't know whether Google is, in fact, not turning over the metadata to Microsoft. But if it's true that Google won't give Microsoft access to the same YouTube metadata that it gives to its own Android developers and to Apple for a YouTube iOS app, then Google is clearly wrong. The metadata should be made available to anyone who wants it. To do otherwise seems to me an unfair business practice and an anti-trust violation.
You may note the irony about Microsoft complaining about a company using its market might to illegally harm competition, given that's essentially what Microsoft was charged with by the U.S. Justice Department back in the 1990s, and was found guilty of doing.
But those kinds of tactics were wrong then, and they're wrong today. If Google is engaging in them, the company should halt the practices or be investigated for misconduct.