My Take on the Amazon vs. Google Shenanigans 0

TL;DR – they’re both being insane and need to stop this crap.

In case you haven’t heard the news, Google (who owns YouTube) is pulling the ability for Amazon Echo devices and Fire devices (tablets, set-top and stick streamers, etc.) as of January 1. Some of this has already happened, as most Fire tablets and the Echo Show already have no ability to show YouTube videos, but after the 1st of the year, the entire rest of the product lines will lose the ability to serve up YouTube content – even though they are Android based, and there are Android apps for YouTube available.

Some backstory:

Amazon is a world-wide powerhouse in online retail and Cloud Services. Google owns most of the information on the Internet and is a major player in Cloud Services. Both are massive – and massively powerful – companies who can set and change the market at will. Both have services which compete with each other directly. Google has their own mobile OS (Android) and a vested interest in online retail – though indirectly as they sell advertising that leads to retail sites instead of offering a retail shop. Amazon is an online retail superstore, and has a mobile OS (FireOS) – though indirectly since FireOS is a fork of Android. Over the last couple of years, a feud has developed between them over eyeballs and ownership, and now we’re all paying the price.

The first salvo was Amazon not permitting the Google Play Store (the Android app store) on Fire devices like tablets and set-top streaming boxes. Apps had to be purchased via Amazon’s own app store functionality. Google made it well known that FireOS wasn’t considered Android anymore, but rather a fork that had branched into its own OS entirely. Some time later, Google devices (like Google Home, ChromeCast streaming sticks for TV’s, etc.) began to systematically disappear from Amazon shopping venues – while at the same time Amazon was promoting their own devices which served the same purpose. So Echo devices were available for sale but Google Home was not. FireTV set-top and stick streaming devices were still available, but ChromeCast sticks disappeared. Fooling absolutely no one with this strategy, Amazon soon caught the ire of Google, who became less and less willing to put up with Amazon’s tricks.

At around this time, FireOS tablets and other devices were using an Amazon-built YouTube application. Google claimed that this app violated their terms of service by manipulating the way in which YouTube advertising displayed, and blocked the app from functioning with YouTube. Amazon retaliated by creating an app that was just a shell to load the YouTube website – seeming taking care of the problem. Google, in a move that is controversial at best, objected to the fact that the touch-screen controls used by the new app didn’t fit their standards, and blocked the new app as well. When the Echo Show (an Echo device with a touch screen) debuted, it was quickly blocked from getting access to YouTube videos by Google, continuing the trend.

So which came first? Did Amazon piss off Google by pulling items from their storefront and manipulating how their devices accessed YouTube? Did Google piss off Amazon by developing competing product lines and limiting 3rd-Party access to their services? It’s a hard call to make, as a lot of these things happened in a very short period of time; but the end result is clear to see. YouTube – as of January 1 – will not be accessible on any Amazon device. ChromeCast and other Google-made hardware devices won’t be sold on Amazon.com – even by 3rd-Party sellers. Together, they’re tearing off their collective noses to spite their collective faces, and that doesn’t help anyone.

Amazon – you’re losing money. People will be hesitant to buy FireTV, or tablets, or the Echo Show when they cannot display the most popular video streaming site in the world. This is especially true when other devices like the Roku, AppleTV, and the majority of smart TV’s can show both Amazon content and YouTube content. You are hurting your sales and tarnishing your reputation.

Google – you are losing money. There is a large population of people who already own FireTV or Echo Show devices, and aren’t going to buy another device just to watch YouTube. That means less eyeballs, and less advertising revenue. It also means fewer people signing up for YouTube Red (the subscription service). The feud is keeping your devices off the most popular online shopping portal in most of the world, and you too are tarnishing your reputation.

Both of you are hurting your own bottom lines, and neither of you can win this in the current market. 3rd-Party devices that neither of you make money from will gain ground, and Apple is going to eventually eat your lunches when they inevitably launch their own voice assistant home device that supports both streaming platforms and doesn’t require directly dealing with either of your independent petty streams of bullshit.

Start working together. Amazon, use the YouTube native interface for touch and web. Show the ads inside of YouTube the way Google wants. Google, face the fact that Amazon sells competing hardware and isn’t going to promote your hardware. Take solace in the fact that you can buy a ChromeCast from a lot of places, and just sit back and rake in the ad revenue from ALL platforms that run YouTube. You don’t have to get along with each other, and can continue sniping at each other until the end of time – just don’t force your end users to make the difficult but inevitable choice to abandon both your platforms for the next hot hardware that comes into the market. Worse yet, don’t put a bad taste in consumers’ mouths when alternatives (like iTunes Video and Xbox Video) exist and could gain market share at your expense if you force users into new behaviors.