Google Maps Blocked On Windows Phone: Is Microsoft In Google's Crosshair?

By Jordan Mammo email: , Jan 06, 2013 05:39 PM EST

Life used to be so simple when it came to categorizing major computer and software companies. Microsoft was the evil, monolithic corporation. Apple wanted to control all your activity. Facebook wanted all your personal information. And Google was the trustworthy one.

Slowly but surely, the latter may be changing.

On Jan. 4, Windows Phone users began reporting problems with the browser version of Google Maps. Specifically, they couldn't even access it anymore. This led to suspicions that Google had initiated the next stage in the continuing smartphone war by intentionally block Windows users from the site.

As a Google spokesperson said to Gizmodo, the reason was clear:

"The mobile web version of Google Maps is optimized for WebKit browsers such as Chrome and Safari. However, since Internet Explorer is not a WebKit browser, Windows Phone devices are not able to access Google Maps for the mobile web."

The statement seems reasonable enough on its face, but it falls short if you stick with the story a little longer. While Internet Explorer is not a WebKit based browser, users had previously been able to access the site with no problem. Google Maps also continues to run on Windows 8 browsers, which Microsoft was quick to note runs on the same engine. The site was accessible until Google decided to prevent access; we just don't know why yet.

This isn't the first time Google and Microsoft have caused trouble for each other, but it is the second time in the last two months that Google cut off working features for competing mobile devices. In December the company removed support for Exchange ActiveSync, making it more difficult for people to sync their phone to Gmail.

Google came up with a clear win on Jan. 3, when it avoided any harsh penalties as a result of an antitrust probe by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC not only avoided fining the company, but also refused to issue a binding agreement when Google agreed to make changes to its search software.

A number of companies and consumer groups expressed disappointment with the decision, Microsoft included. The Redmond-based giant joined a coalition of online sites in its attempt to sue Google over allegations that the company favors its own products over others in its search results. When Google avoided discipline at the hands of the FTC, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel Dave Heiner took to the blogs to express his dissatisfaction.

"We find it troubling that the agency did not adhere to its own standard procedures that call for the agency to obtain industry input on proposed relief and secure it through an enforceable consent decree," said Heiner. "The FTC's overall resolution of this matter is weak and-frankly-unusual."

Other observers like Slate's Will Oremus, however, found the FTC ruling "makes perfect sense in today's climate."

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