Microsoft knuckles under, yanks YouTube app for Windows Phone

Microsoft, Google to collaborate on new app that delivers ads

Microsoft has bowed to pressure from Google and pulled the YouTube app from its Windows Phone Store that earlier this month triggered a cease-and-desist letter from the search giant.

The two companies will instead collaborate on a YouTube app that abides by the Google-owned video site's terms of service.

"Microsoft and YouTube are working together to update the new YouTube for Windows Phone app to enable compliance with YouTube's API terms of service, including enabling ads, in the coming weeks," the two companies said in a joint statement provided by a Microsoft spokesman Thursday. "Microsoft will replace the existing YouTube app in Windows Phone Store with the previous version during this time."

As of Friday, the Microsoft-created YouTube app was no longer available on the Windows Phone Store.

The temporary replacement will be the HTML-based app, which Microsoft had also created, that was distributed via the Windows Phone Store prior to May 8.

That was when Microsoft released a new YouTube app for Windows Phone 8, a move that prompted an ultimatum from Google that Microsoft yank the program from the store and render useless those copies already downloaded. Google's cease-and-desist letter, sent to Microsoft on May 15, cited violations of the YouTube and YouTube API terms of service that included not displaying advertisements, allowing video downloads and playing videos that partners wanted blocked on some mobile devices.

Google told Microsoft to remove the YouTube app from the Windows Phone Store by Wednesday, May 22.

For its part, Microsoft complained that, "Google has refused to work with us to develop an app on par with other platforms" and said it would be "more than happy to include advertising but need Google to provide us access to the necessary APIs."

On May 22, Microsoft updated its YouTube app to address two of the three concerns Google had raised -- the revision stripped out the video download feature and added restricted video blocking -- but did not remove the app. Nor did it revamp the app to display ads, instead saying in a statement that it had been "in contact with Google and continue to believe that our two companies can work together to hone an app that benefits out mutual customers, partners and content providers."

The announcement Thursday that the pair would pool resources on a new app confirmed analysis by Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research, who over a week ago said that both companies would benefit more by working together, at least in this instance, than by quarreling. "For Google to run their fundamental business model, they have to provide support for multiple platforms," said Gottheil in an earlier interview. "So it's not a zero-sum game. Windows benefits from YouTube on it, and Google benefits from YouTube on Windows."

Google and Microsoft each declined to spell out what kind of app would result, or which YouTube API it would use. Other media outlets, including The Verge and TechCrunch, contended that Microsoft would call the iFrame player API (application programming interface), a relatively simple API used by websites to embed an HTML5 YouTube video player on their pages, then control that player using JavaScript.

However, Google declined to confirm the use of the iFrame player API by Microsoft, instead saying that a decision had not been made about which YouTube-related API or APIs would be called by the app.

The collaboration may put an end to the dispute between Microsoft and Google over YouTube, a brouhaha that goes back years. In March 2011, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said Microsoft had filed a formal complaint with European antitrust regulators, and among several reasons, cited Google's refusal to put Windows Phone on par with rival mobile operating systems, including Android and Apple's iOS, in accessing YouTube.

The spat over YouTube was just a minor skirmish in the ongoing war between the two technology firms that has enveloped everything from search and office productivity applications to browsers and operating systems. Microsoft has been the aggressor in that war, said Gottheil two weeks ago, ticking off Redmond's continuing "Scroggled" attack ad campaigns and its pursuit of patent licensing fees from smartphone makers who rely on Android to power their devices.

"Microsoft has expressed its antagonism for far longer, but this is the first time where Google is fighting back in a public way," said Gottheil then of the YouTube dust-up.

This article, Microsoft knuckles under, yanks YouTube app for Windows Phone, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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