Windows Phone's Big Problem: Google Ignores It

Google prefers Android and iOS when it comes to developing mobile apps and services. For Windows Phone, this is a big liability.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

April 2, 2012

4 Min Read

As far as Google is concerned, Microsoft's Windows Phone platform doesn't really exist. For people who've invested in Google's online services, Google's lack of support for the Windows Platform is a real problem--one that Microsoft should be tackling head on.

Microsoft would prefer, naturally, that users of its Windows Phone smartphones also use its online services for email, messaging, social networking, and so on. It's no surprise that Windows Phone comes with support for Microsoft Office, SkyDrive, Bing, Xbox, and other core Microsoft services. As a major platform provider, Microsoft wants its customers to be fully invested in Microsoft across the board.

The same is true of Apple and Google with iOS and Android, respectively. Both smartphone platform progenitors offer goods and services that are only available to their respective smartphones--and that's the way it should be. Take iTunes in the cloud, for example. iTunes is Apple's cash cow, so why would it want to make that available to Google? Same goes for Google.

Google, however, acknowledges that iOS exists. It may give preference to Android when it comes to releasing new mobile applications or services, but it quickly follows with iOS support--if it doesn't support it from the get go. Look at Google+. Google first made a dedicated Google+ application available to the Android platform, but followed about a week later with a Google+ app for iOS.

[ Will Nokia's Lumia 900 open minds and wallets to Microsoft's mobile platform? See Nokia's Flagship Windows Phone Ships April 8. ]

The net result is that someone such as me, who is fully invested in Google's services, can use all of them on an iOS device and not miss a beat. I have access to every Google service I need, whether via a dedicated iOS app or an HTML5 Web app. Google supports iOS, even though Google and Apple are competitors.

The same is not true for Windows Phone.

Google has developed shockingly few applications for Windows Phone. It offers a basic Google search app, but the app is clearly an afterthought, and falls flat compared to Bing Search on Windows Phone. You're better off navigating to within Internet Explorer on Windows Phone. The Windows Phone email client does support Gmail, Google Contacts, and Calendar. Those services are all available, but ancillary ones are not.

A few examples: Google+, Google Docs, Google Music, Google Voice, Google Groups, Google Maps, and on and on.

Some individual developers have tackled these Google Services, but the results are not nearly as good as what Google could put together. There's a Google+ application available in the Marketplace for Mobile, for example. However, it's not a real application. Instead, it is the Google+ Web page repackaged in an app wrapper. It offers a modicum of functionality, but the experience pales in comparison to what a native application could provide. Microsoft has taken it upon itself to fill in some of the blanks. For example, it has its own version of YouTube for Windows Phone. It's awful. HTC trumped Microsoft by developing a far superior YouTube app for its Windows Phone devices. Where's the Google-made version of YouTube for Windows Phone? MIA.

Many say Microsoft doesn't have a good app store for Windows Phone. With 70,000 apps in the market, I'd say that's only partially true. Microsoft has plenty of apps available to Windows Phones, but they're not the right apps.

If Microsoft really wants to convince Android and iOS device users to change platforms, it needs to scare up some support for Google's apps and services and prove that devs won't be missing anything if they make the jump. If Microsoft wants to develop the apps itself, fine, but it would be better if Google did. Microsoft's current share of the U.S. smartphone market is somewhere under 4%, though, which doesn't give Google any motivation when it comes to setting aside resources to support use of a competing platform.

Put another way, how many iOS device users do you think Apple would retain if suddenly the majority of Google's mobile apps/services weren't available to the iPhone or iPad?

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About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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