YouTube: How Amazon and Google's spat over the service could ultimately be of benefit to consumers

The tech giants are engaged in a tit for tat squabble that has seen the YouTube app taken off some Amazon devices 

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Wednesday 06 December 2017 10:25 GMT
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Google has taken the YouTube app off a pair of Amazon devices
Google has taken the YouTube app off a pair of Amazon devices (Reuters)

Could Amazon and Google’s petty little spat actually work in the consumer’s favour long term?

As the giants of Silicon Valley extend their tendrils into new areas, they’re increasingly butting heads in a way that apparently does their customers no favours whatsoever.

The latest example of this has ended up with users of Amazon's Echo Show or Fire TV no longer being able to access Google's wildly popular YouTube app (although they will be able to view videos via the streaming service's website).

Why? Google says Amazon won’t carry its Chromecast and Google Home services and won’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users.

It also says Amazon last month stopped selling some of the products offered by Nest, another part of the Google, sorry, Alphabet empire (Alphabet is now the official name of the holding company at the top although everyone still calls it Google).

There is a back story: Both companies are desperately trying to win the battle to dominate the market for voice activated devices, which some expect will become the next big thing.

Amazon has a handy lead at the moment, but the battle is a long way from being won. I only need to listen to my wife’s furious telling off of Alexa when she’s trying to get something she wants played on her Echo to know that. For the record, almost the only use I make of voice activated services is in asking Apple's Siri silly questions to make the kids laugh (you should try it, it's a hoot).

Anyway, Amazon describes Google’s move as a “disappointing precedent” while insisting it hopes to resolve the issue. Google bemoans a lack of reciprocity from Amazon. But it also says it wants to be buds again.

This might involve big business, big tech, and big money, but parents with more than one child will be very familiar with what is at the core of the two statements:

Nyah, nyah. He said, she said. MUM!

It’s wearisome, and tends to drives parents to distraction at the end of a long day, just as this bought of corporate pettiness will drive users of the affected services to distraction.

So how on earth does this work for the consumer, I hear you ask. They would seem to be the big losers here, because their devices will no longer offer a full range of services.

Let’s return to our squabbling children. Eventually the parent has no choice but to intervene, usually by separating the warring siblings before negotiating peace between them. Sometimes, if the squabble is serious enough, this is accomplished alongside the imposition of some type of penalty.

There are no parents to stop our pair of technological titans from bickering. But if they prove unwilling, or unable, to solve their own disputes (to be fair Amazon and Apple kissed and made up after a similar spat a while back) what you will be left with is a market failure.

When that happens someone, i.e. a regulator, will have to step in and sort it out, perhaps alongside the imposition of a financial penalty.

We, as consumers, would likely benefit from that in the long run. Given the tech industry's power, the ever greater role it plays in our lives, and its propensity for bouts of bad behaviour, there is a pressing need for greater oversight and regulation of it.

So keep on squabbling, kids, because sooner or later the parents will be along.

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