Brand management is critical. You don’t want consumers interacting with services that show your company in a poor light. When you’re a services company like Google, your reputation depends on people having good experiences using apps like GMail and Youtube.
Which is why I find Google’s current strategy of ignoring Windows Phone so interesting. Yes, I understand the official reasoning, you don’t support an OS with so few users until it’s popular enough to force you to support it. Much like how Google NEEDS to be on iOS. Though it’s a somewhat childish corporate tactic ignoring Windows Phone, hoping it’ll just go away.
Unfortunately for Google, Microsoft is the new number three smartphone ecosystem, showing fairly strong growth in Europe, and by buying Nokia they open up an entire market of potential customers around the world. Plenty of markets where low cost Lumias will start to show up against locally-made entry-level Android fare.
We’ve seen Google end support for Exchange which upset how calendar and contact info was synced on Windows 8, and now their current squabble is over Youtube. Google has refused to release any of their own services as apps for Windows Phone. No Voice. No Maps. No Now. No Gmail. No Docs. Nothing. Many of these are being replaced by third party developers, but Youtube was special. Microsoft delivered a pretty decent Youtube app for Windows Phone. Google broke the app by revoking the developer key, citing some conflict that the app wasn’t “fully featured” enough.
Now it would seem that negotiations between Google and Microsoft have broken down even further. Now in its place, the official Windows Phone Youtube app (from Microsoft) is essentially just a web portal, a lame version of the experience you’d have firing up the browser.
And for what?
You might win some people over to Android by making Google services painful to use on Windows Phone, but you’re equally likely to just piss other people off. For my own personal use, I try to only leave the house with one phone at a time. If I’m reviewing a Windows Phone for the day, what happens? I interact with Google services less. I post on Twitter and Facebook a LOT more than I do on G+. Funny how it works out that way.
Google doesn’t make money on Android directly. They make money on advertising and mining user data. Ignoring Windows Phone wont make it disappear. Microsoft is perfectly content to lose money building a reputation over years. Yes, you’d be developing for a smaller user base, but why not get that community’s data too?
Much like how Google will be sneaking Chrome OS onto Windows 8 computers,why not infect every Windows Phone with Google apps and services. If you really want to cut Microsoft off at the knees, take users away from HERE maps and Microsoft Office. Offer up better gaming services than the still somewhat lame XBox integration. Google might even be doing some of their hardware partners a favor as Microsoft makes more money per phone on Android patent agreements than it does on Windows Phone 8 licenses.
Let Microsoft do all the heavy lifting getting a device to market. Let them convince people that it’s a solid alternative to the current Apple/Samsung battle. Then take all their users away with software, clouds, and apps. Now’s the time to do it, while Microsoft is a weak third place competitor in the United States. This Trojan Horse style combat becomes harder as Microsoft becomes a stronger third place and consumers realize the Live, HERE maps, and Skype work pretty well…