Google CEO Larry Page zinged Microsoft for its "sad" behavior during his remarks at Google I/O, complaining about the company's us-versus-them mentality. Yet only a few days earlier, Google had served Microsoft with a cease-and-desist letter to pull a Windows Phone YouTube app. Whose behavior is really sad here?
During a talk at Google I/O, Page decried tech industry competition, saying that it impedes progress. Cooperation, not competition, is the way that the world will improve, he said. CNet quotes him as saying:
"Every story I read about Google is us versus some other company or some stupid thing. Being negative is not how we make progress. The most important things are not zero sum. There is a lot of opportunity out there."
He then turned his sights on Microsoft, singling it out for what he believes is destructive competitive behavior:
"I've personally been quite sad at the industry's behavior around all these things. If you take something as simple as IM [instant messenger], we've had an open offer to interoperate forever. Just this week Microsoft took advantage of that by interoperating with us. This is really sad, and not the way to make progress. You can't have people milking off of just one company for their own benefit...We struggle with people like Microsoft."
His complaint referred to Microsoft's decision to incorporate Google Talk into Outlook.com, allowing people to use Google's chat service along with Microsoft's Web-based mail service, but not allowing Google to make Microsoft's own instant messenger service available from Gmail.
Page certainly has a point. But it's a hypocritical one. Because The Verge uncovered a cease-and-desist letter that Google recently sent to Microsoft, asking that Microsoft:
"immediately withdraw this [YouTube] application from the Windows Phone Store and disable existing downloads of the application by Wednesday, May 22, 2013."
Microsoft and Google have been tangling over the YouTube app for quite some time. Microsoft had previously made a complaint to the European Union that Google was refusing to allow Microsoft to have access to YouTube metadata for its Windows Phone app. Microsoft charges that Google provide the metadata to competitors, allowing them to build YouTube apps, but making it difficult for Microsoft to build a useful one. Brad Smith, Microsoft Senior Vice President & General Counsel explained in a blog:
"In 2010 and again more recently, Google blocked Microsoft’s new Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube. 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...We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide."
Google's behavior is exactly the behavior that Page complained about. In a way it's worse, because YouTube is a much more valuable service than Microsoft's instant messenger service. So the next time he wants to preach Kumbaya cooperation and call out competititors for their bad behavior, he should first examine Google's own.