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Amazon and Google are engaged in an all-too-public tiff. In the latest salvo, Google has announced it will pull YouTube support from Amazon’s Fire TV streaming devices. But, as is so often the case in such corporate arguments, the only real losers are customers. Happy days.
Amazon and Alphabet-owned Google have had their fair share of run-ins – from cloud computing to online shopping, search and voice-controlled gadgets. This time though, things have gotten a tad adolescent. And YouTube is the bargaining chip.
In a statement issued to The Verge a Google spokesperson complained that Amazon doesn’t sell certain Google products and doesn’t allow Prime Video to work with Chromecast. “Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.” In an equally shirty statement, an Amazon spokesperson said Google was setting a “a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website”.
But as the war of words carries on, analysts expect the two companies to come to an agreement before things get out of hand. “We’ve had similar situations with fixed telcos blocking the use of Skype or mobile operators blocking WhatsApp in a way to protect their turf,” says Gartner’s Fernando Elizalde. “In the past we’ve seen Apple TV very restrictive as to what could be seen or access on it, yet we are seeing more and more third party services on Apple TV.”
So how will it play out? “I believe that Google is using YouTube to put pressure on Amazon and the deadline of January has been placed to give time for the two giants to come to an agreement. Each one will give in somewhat to get this resolved. For Amazon, not having the most used user-generated content platform on its devices is a drawback; at the same time, YouTube is about maximising its audience so not being accessible on Amazon’s increasing number of screens can also turn into an issue,” he explains.
But, if the spat isn’t resolved by 2018, there are a few options. Consumers are really good at getting to what they want, be it through third-party apps or other workarounds. And, ultimately, the annoyance will likely only be temporary – even if it does keep repeating.
So could a regulatory body – the metaphorical parent – step in to sort things out? Well yes, but where would you start? Regulating tech companies of this scale requires going through complex processes for every country in the world where they operate. “The UK regulatory body, the European regulatory body, the American regulatory body – it would be very complicated,” says Elizalde.
For now, the two are likely to be left to their own devices. Sadly, for customers, that means missing out on services and platforms you had been taking for granted.