Will the Google/Microsoft Cold War Kill Windows Phone 8?

Mutual disdain between two technology giants, Microsoft and Google has evolved into a full scale cold war in the smartphone and tablet arenas.

This was perhaps inevitable, but the recent raft of ads by Microsoft deriding Google and the latter’s refusal to create apps for Windows Phone 8 took some industry watchers by surprise.

The early part of the relationship between the two was cooperative and complementary, rather than competitive. With Microsoft focused on desktop/server OSs and applications, and Google focused on search, all was well between the two.

How things have changed. The strategic relationship began to shift when Microsoft belatedly woke up to the need to be in search and Google launched their own browser, Chrome, which has since overtaken IE worldwide (though not yet in the US).

With the birth of Android and its market share domination in the exploding tablet and smartphone world, Microsoft became increasingly anxious that the next computing era might end up belonging to Google and Apple, not to them.

Android has been a breakout success for Google, giving them a crushing lead over the second place iOS in the 3rd quarter of 2012, according to the Gartner Group.

Worldwide Mobile Device Sales to End Users by Operating System in 3Q12 (Thousands of Units)

 

Operating System

3Q12

 Units

3Q12 Market Share (%)

3Q11

 Units

3Q11 Market Share (%)

Android

122,480.0

72.4

60,490.4

52.5

iOS

23,550.3

13.9

17,295.3

15.0

Research In Motion

8,946.8

5.3

12,701.1

11.0

Bada

5,054.7

3.0

2,478.5

2.2

Symbian

4,404.9

2.6

19,500.1

16.9

Microsoft

4,058.2

2.4

1,701.9

1.5

Others

683.7

0.4

1,018.1

0.9

Total

169,178.6

100.0

115,185.4

100.0

Source: Gartner (November 2012)

These numbers span both the smartphone and tablet markets and show how dominant Google has become in the increasingly important mobile market.

The truth therefore is that this has become an existential battle for Microsoft. If the mobile market continues on its trajectory and desktops/laptops remain stagnant of even decline as some project, then Microsoft’s long-term future is put at risk.

However, it was still surprising to see Microsoft launch it #droidrage and ‘scroogled’ ads in a bitter broadside directly against Google.

The consensus however, is that the #droidrage campaign generally backfired, while the scroogled campaign – accusing Google of biased search results based on payment from advertisers – had limited impact.

So it was not surprising that Google now appears to have launched a “get even” effort on in its part.  It just announced it would drop consumer support of Google Sync, the Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol used for getting email, contacts, appointments and tasks onto mobile phones, on January 30, 2013.

In its stead, Google recommends CalDAV for calendar, CardDAV for contacts, as well as IMAP for email. In essence, this is a blow to Microsoft, as they do not support CalDAV or CardDAV.

Google’s actions now make it clear that if you buy a Windows Phone 8 device, don’t expect to use its consumer services.

The funny part of this is that Microsoft had benefited immensely from Android’s success. The EAS protocol used also by the iPhone was licensed them and they received royalties from every Android phone sold. Until now.

In addition to denying Microsoft licensing revenue, Google apps on Windows Phone 8 will no longer work properly after the switch is made, UNLESS Microsoft spends immense time and energy developing CalDAV or CardDAV interfaces.

Next, Google has announced it has no intention of developing Google Maps or YouTube or Gmail or g-annything else apps for WP8, as its share of the market does not warrant it. While arguably true, boy, does that hurt.

As Darren Murph in Engadget argues, that may be the cruelest blow of all as apps determine whether a smartphone lives or dies.

The rumble about lack of apps continues to hurt the Lumia and other WP8 smartphones and the latest kerfuffle with Google won’t help any.

Microsoft is now in the unfamiliar position of underdog as this cold war with Google comes at a time when the Lumia and other Windows Phone 8 phones are struggling during the Christmas season.

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