Google has confirmed that it has blocked Windows Phone users from using Google Maps through Internet Explorer. The official line? It is because the browser is not a “WebKit browser” like Safari and Chrome. But you know what browsers are not WebKit browsers as well? Firefox and Opera, and they seem perfectly fine in running Google Maps, so why not Internet Explorer?
The technological reasons don’t stack up. If it works on Firefox and Opera – which use Gecko and Presto respectively (other browser types), then it should work with Internet Explorer. Microsoft has put a lot of time and effort in order to win back the developer crowd by embracing a majority of web standards, in contrast back to Internet Explorer 6 (which is still not dead yet – much to the annoyance of developers).
If it only works on a WebKit browser, then surely you would have banned the other browsers from accessing Google Maps, since according to Google, it should not work on those browsers. But alas, it does.
However, given that Google Maps is a web app, I wouldn’t pair this decision to block Google Maps solely on the fact that Windows Phone has a small user base. That may be the case for the YouTube app (though, sort of weird – given that Microsoft was building the app and all it required was access to its API), or pulling Exchange support for Gmail users, but not in the case for Google Maps.
Why? Because it takes little to no effort to continue developing it because, from what I can see, Google Maps uses standard HTML5 – which is supported across Firefox, WebKit, Opera and Internet Explorer. There is a reason why web standards are open – so they are interoperable, accessible and usable regardless of browser.
The only reasonable reason why Google would cut off Maps to Windows Phone users it is a business decision. Why? There are three possible scenarios – that Google wants to cut Windows Phone growth; that Google saw it was futile to compete in that market given that Nokia Maps is heavily integrated in Windows Phone 8; or, retaliation for Microsoft’s call for a federal probe into Google’s practices.
All in all, it has left both sides looking bad. For Google, it looks like they are doing something dickish, anti-competitive, and upsetting those users who actually want Google on their phones (yes, there are some).
For Microsoft, however, it is another story that highlights its Achilles’ heel – it’s ecosystem.