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Google Again Blocks Windows Phone YouTube App

Google has blocked Microsoft's YouTube app for Windows Phone for the second time.

The latest version of the app was published this week, but it was blocked from user access by Google, which owns YouTube. The sticking point, as cited by Dave Howard, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for litigation and antitrust at Microsoft, appears to be that Microsoft's YouTube app isn't HTML 5-based and designed to run in a browser. Howard explained this point in a Microsoft announcement issued on Thursday.

A Google spokesperson also cited the lack of HTML 5 support as a reason for blocking the app.

"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," a Google statement explained, as cited by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley.

The two companies had been working together on a YouTube app for Windows Phone since May. At that time, Google had complained that Microsoft's app violated Google's terms of service. For instance, Microsoft's app did not show ads served up with video content. Consequently, Google had demanded that Microsoft remove the app from the Windows Store.

In blocking Microsoft's app this week, Google is demanding an HTML 5 requirement that it doesn't require for Android and iOS devices, Howard contended. He claimed that the HTML 5 requirement by Google would be "technically difficult and time consuming" to carry out.

"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," Howard stated. "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."

Howard said that the app Microsoft released this week did comply with enabling Google's ads. Microsoft also disabled video downloads and access to "reserved videos," he added. Howard said that Microsoft had requested the metadata that Google provides to Android and iOS devices to meet Google's ad serving requirements but that Google had refused to provide it.

The metadata claim isn't new. Microsoft complained more than two years ago to European regulators that Google wasn't providing access to the metadata information needed to find YouTube videos on Windows Phones.

Howard said that Google had "manufactured" reasons to block Microsoft's Windows Phone YouTube app and asked the company to permit its use. While that request is short of a lawsuit, it is coming from a Microsoft antitrust lawyer.

In recent years, the two companies have been engaged in a number of legal disputes associated with the so-called "platform wars," in which Google's Android, Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone are the principal players. Microsoft, for its part, has managed to get most equipment manufacturers to pay it royalties based on the use Android due to Microsoft's intellectual property claims. Google, in turn, has used its Motorola Mobility subsidiary to demand royalties from Apple and Microsoft on its essential standards patent holdings. Microsoft and Google have also legally sparred over the use of the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol, and engaged in other mail syncing spats.

There have been collaboration disputes on other fronts as well. For instance, Microsoft has only allowed other browser makers, such Google and Mozilla, to create so-called "Metro style enabled desktop browsers" for the Desktop side of Windows 8. Microsoft has imposed that requirement even though its own Internet Explorer browser reportedly doesn't have that restriction and is built for the Windows Store Apps (formerly known as "Metro") side of Windows 8 and Windows RT. That limitation caused a Mozilla lawyer to cry foul, with the suggestion of antitrust action.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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