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Google issues YouTube ultimatum to Microsoft as Hatfield-McCoy feud heats up

Gregg Keizer | May 17, 2013
Demands Microsoft yank home-grown app by May 22; Microsoft replies, cites Google CEO's call for less negativity.

Google yesterday sent a cease-and-desist letter to Microsoft, demanding that its rival remove the YouTube app built for the Windows Phone platform.

The letter cited violations of the YouTube and YouTube API terms of service, including preventing the display of advertisements -- the way YouTube reaps revenue -- allowing video downloads and playing videos that partners have blocked on certain mobile devices.

"We request that you immediately withdraw this application from the Windows Phone Store and disable existing downloads of the application by Wednesday, May 22, 2013," the letter read. "We were surprised and disappointed that Microsoft chose to launch an application that deliberately deprives content creators of their rightful earnings, especially given that Windows Phone 8 users already have access to a fully-functional YouTube application based upon industry-standard HTML5 through the Web browser."

Microsoft, which built the YouTube app for Windows Phone, launched it May 8. Although Microsoft's Windows Phone Store does not disclose the number of downloads for any app, the YouTube app has been reviewed by more than 9,000 users and as of Thursday, was the fifth-most-downloaded free app in its catalog.

The Verge first reported the Google letter Wednesday afternoon, with Wired following minutes later. Neither revealed how they obtained the document.

Microsoft issued a statement Wednesday after the Google demands became public.

"YouTube is consistently one of the top apps downloaded by smartphone users on all platforms, but Google has refused to work with us to develop an app on par with other platforms," Microsoft said via a spokeswoman. "Since we updated the YouTube app to ensure our mutual customers a similar YouTube experience, ratings and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive. We'd be more than happy to include advertising but need Google to provide us access to the necessary APIs."

Ezra Gottheil, analyst with Technology Business Research, saw no end to the tit-for-tat, back-and-forth between Google and Microsoft.

"They're both contending for the territory where, by all accounts, Android has largely won," said Gottheil of the smartphone market. "Microsoft is an aggressive and feisty company, [so] this will continue, whether it's done publicly, or a behind-the-scenes chess match."

Microsoft has been the aggressor most of the time, said Gottheil, who ticked off Redmond's "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 larger, but this is the first time I know where Google is fighting back in a public way," said Gottheil in a Thursday interview.

Google's CEO Larry Page, speaking at his company's I/O developers conference yesterday, called out Microsoft for not reciprocating.


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