Microsoft vs. Google: Services

Posted Saturday March 23, 2013 at 10:31:49 pm in Technology

People say you are not buying into a phone, you are buying into an ecosystem. To that end, it is important to analyze competing services between two of the biggest companies: Microsoft and Google.

With Google taking a pretty hard stance against Windows and Windows Phone by not developing applications for them (in particular the Modern UI on Windows 8 and Windows Phone as a whole), this leaves Microsoft in quite a predicament when it comes to services such as Google Maps and YouTube. After all, Google still develops actively for iOS, mostly from a marketshare perspective.

But the Windows 8 stance is an odd take from Google. After 5 months, Windows 8 has grown to 3.77% of desktop marketshare. This could be a situation where Google is taking a wait and see approach: they want to see more marketshare and more use of the Modern UI. They also want to see more maturity out of the platform. Understandable.

But for Windows Phone it is seems more like a competitive stance. After all, Google has blocked access to YouTube's APIs from Windows Phone. And while there are a slew of  non-Google sponsored YouTube applications, they are routinely breaking due to restrictions put in place by Google. More here: Microsoft Says Google 'Refuses' YouTube Access to Windows Phone Users.

This isn't the only situation where Google has given Microsoft the cold shoulder. It happened with Internet Explorer access via Windows Phone and Google Maps: Many Windows Phone users report being cut off from Google Maps. The interesting take is that Google claimed that Windows Phone's Internet Explorer was never supported by Google Maps. This is, of course, preposterous since prior to to that fiasco, Google Maps via Windows Phone's Internet Explorer worked perfectly fine. Since then, Google Maps is working *again* on Windows Phone. The whole fiasco leaves a rather large blemish on Google being that Windows Phone 8's Internet Explorer (10) and Windows 8's Internet Explorer (10) both use the same rendering engine. Even more hilarious was Google's statement:

The mobile web version of Google Maps is optimized for WebKit browsers such as Chrome and Safari. However, since Internet Explorer is not a WebKit browser, Windows Phone devices are not able to access Google Maps for the mobile web.

...somebody tell FireFox. 

So far that's native YouTube (still unresolved), Google Maps via the web (resolved), native Google Maps (unresolved), and of course the whole Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) fiasco: Google extends Windows Phone support for Exchange ActiveSync until July 31st. Microsoft is already working on CardDav and CalDAV protocol support for Windows Phone, FWIW.

All of that drivel above is to point out how important it is that Microsoft (and other companies) have their own set of competing services. It also points out that companies like BlackBerry are in big, big trouble. 

So, on the Google front, they have the following:

  • Search (Google)
  • Maps (Google Maps)
  • Video (YouTube)
  • Music/Videos (Play)
  • Books/Magazines (Play)
  • Apps (Chrome Web Store, Play)
  • Mail (Gmail)
  • Cloud (Drive)
  • Productivity Apps (Google Docs through Drive, I think that's the new name...)
  • Calendar (Calendar)
  • Contacts (Contacts through Gmail)
  • Social (Google+)
  • Voice/Text (Google Voice)
  • Text Chat (Google Talk, Google Chat, etc.)
  • Video Chat (Google Talk, Google+ Hangouts)
  • Shopping (Shopping)
  • Travel (Flights - only flights, no hotels)
  • Mobile Gaming (Android)
  • Console Gaming - NONE
  • Desktop (Chrome OS)
  • TV (Google TV)
  • Motion Controls/Gaming - NONE

Now, we can argue that gaming really is only casual gaming at this point. Google really isn't anywhere in the minds of console gamers even with Ouya. And it's not in the mind of desktop gamers.

Now, what about Microsoft?

  • Search (Bing)
  • Maps (Bing Maps, Nokia Maps)
  • Video - NONE
  • Music/Videos (Xbox Music, Xbox Video, Zune Music, Zune Video)
  • Books/Magazines - NONE, although Kindle, Nook, etc. are available
  • Apps (Windows Store, Windows Phone Store, Xbox Marketplace, etc.)
  • Mail (Outlook, Hotmail)
  • Cloud (SkyDrive)
  • Productivity Apps (Office Web Apps through SkyDrive)
  • Calendar (Calendar)
  • Contacts (People)
  • Social (Socl, although this is still a research project, so some could say NONE)
  • Voice/Text (Skype)
  • Text Chat (Skype, Lync)
  • Video Chat (Skype, Lync)
  • Shopping (Bing Shopping)
  • Travel (Flights and Hotels)
  • Mobile Gaming (Windows, Windows Phone)
  • Console Gaming (Xbox) 
  • Desktop (Windows)
  • TV (Xbox)
  • Motion Controls/Gaming (Kinect)

Now, what is Google missing that Microsoft has? Pretty much just console gaming and motion input. Their travel search is a bit lackluster compared to Bing Travel, but for the most part Google has a pretty comprehensive suite of services. 

As for Microsoft? There are 2 pretty big glaring holes and one minor one. One is Books/Magazines. This isn't so much of an issue as Kindle and Nook is available across the Windows devices (Windows Phone, Windows, Modern UI, etc.).

The two glaring holes are in video and social. Some say in social you shouldn't try to go up against Facebook. After all, Microsoft has a pretty solid relationship with Facebook. Some would say the relationship Google has with Facebook is rather timultuous. Microsoft does have a social platform called Socl, but it's a research experiment for them. As Google+ grows (even though it's mostly an afterthought for all but the technologically savvy), one wonders if Microsoft is going to try and battle Google on this front....or if they think it's a fight not worth fighting.

But back to the 3rd glaring hole: video. Microsoft does not have a YouTube competitor. And you have to wonder with Google giving Microsoft the cold shoulder if they should create their own service.

Personally, I think Microsoft needs one. If for nothing else the SkyDrive integration and to give Google a Microsoft branded competitor to YouTube. 

So, how can Microsoft accomplish shoring up 2 out of the 3 holes?

For Books and Magazines, Microsoft teamed up with Barnes & Noble on a Nook Media LLC partnership back in October of 2012. This was right before Windows 8 was released. The Nook division of Barnes & Noble has been in a bit of hot water as of late and some (including me) wonder if Microsoft would buy them right out. Some signs point to heavier integration as of late. Alex Wilhelm over at The Next Web wrote an article about this in February of 2013: Barnes & Noble's new Windows 8 Nook app lets consumers log in with their Microsoft Account. I think you'll see Nook end up being the go to Book/Magazine service soon once integration across all of their platforms is complete.

As for video? On one side Microsoft could scoop up Vimeo. They bought Skype for $8.5 billion. And that purchase singlehandedly shored up their text/video/voice chat services across a variety of platforms (both mobile and desktop). On the other they could just create their own service. They've created offices devoted to creating premium content for their Xbox services. That appears to be a similar tactic that Netflix is taking. Netflix was quoted as saying:

The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us. 

After all, Microsoft has game studios, app studios, and the like. A content studio was right up their alley. The next domino would be a platform for user generated content as well as possibly its own.

Of course the 3rd option is to reuse an existing platform like Xbox Video. Microsoft isn't beyond extending a brand name. And the Xbox brand has instant recognition. Allowing user generated content and at the same time selling TV shows, movies, etc. through Xbox Video might make the most sense. As a matter of fact, it's probably the best move.

Look to Xbox Music as an example. It's young, but it has expanded across Windows Phone, Windows 8/RT, and Xbox. There's been code evidence found of SkyDrive having a music player built for it. This might be the integration of Xbox Music and SkyDrive that a lot were hoping for. And most likely this would be the final stages of wrapping up the Xbox Music Match service that was talked about (briefly) not too long ago.

So, if Xbox Music and SkyDrive integrate, why wouldn't Xbox Video and SkyDrive? And how about with a front facing GUI for consumers? At that point, one might ask: do we really need YouTube? Think about it. If Microsoft opened Xbox Video up to user generated content, I'm sure content creators would jump hand over food to get their content disrtributed on both YouTube as well as Xbox Video. 

Let me just say it again and bold it: Microsoft, you need a video platform for user generated content. Integrate it with SkyDrive. Make an awesome UI. Expand the Xbox Video name and allow for user generated content.

Something to think about, Microsoft. 

Oh, btw. I have to give a big thanks to Steve Ballmer over at Microsoft. I sent an email to him at about 1am EST, and he responded within an hour and a half. From his Windows Phone. Pretty neat.



The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view