Today, a Google spokesperson provided The Next Web with a statement indicating that the company intends to remove the redirect that it has in place for Windows Phone users who attempt to access the Google Maps product, ending its practice of sending them to its search homepage.
As indicated below, the reason for this is performance: Google checks compatibility of its Maps product across platforms on the occasion, and following review, has found that Windows Phone 8’s new Internet Explorer version is satisfactory in its handling of the web app.
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Earlier versions of Windows Phone had been found to be more lacking. Google has in fact limited access to Maps on other platforms where performance has lagged, such as Opera on iPad.
What follows is Google’s statement:
We periodically test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users.
In our last test, IE mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality. As a result, we chose to continue to redirect IE mobile users to Google.com where they could at least make local searches. The Firefox mobile browser did offer a somewhat better user experience and that’s why there is no redirect for those users.
Recent improvements to IE mobile and Google Maps now deliver a better experience and we are currently working to remove the redirect. We will continue to test Google Maps compatibility with other mobile browsers to ensure the best possible experience for users.
It is important to note that Google states that its product decision to limit access to its Maps product on Windows Phone was just that: a product decision, and not a move intended to limit access to its services for Microsoft’s mobile customers for purely competitive reasons.
If you missed the hubbub, reports surfaced from users yesterday that Google Maps’ web product was no longer available on the Windows Phone 8 platform. Google responded with a statement, indicating that its products are essentially designed with WebKit in mind, and not Internet Explorer. Later, sources close to Microsoft presented TNW with a different take on the story, noting that the idea of browser differences wasn’t perhaps the real motive behind the decision as Internet Explorer 10 on Windows Phone and on normal computers share a rendering engine.
Many users, and some TNW readers, expressed annoyance, reporting that they had had previous access to the Google Maps web product on their Windows Phone handsets before yesterday. Some posted videos of them accessing the service on sub-TLDs.
What isn’t clear is what, precisely, changed yesterday that led to the rise in user dissatisfaction.
However, what is clear via Google’s statement is that the company intended to limit access to the product for the Windows Phone platform due strictly to performance reasons. This means that the company, yesterday, did not act in a way that was expressly designed to suppress Windows Phone viability as a platform.
TNW noted that Google’s actions appeared to be those of a competitor. That is correct, in the sense that Google certainly wasn’t devoting extensive time to the Windows Phone platform; browser improvements to Windows Phone through its ‘8’ update were announced in April.
Given that Google intends to lift the redirect, Windows Phone users will now – all – be able to access Google Maps on the go.
At this time, it appears that Google’s policy of not providing native applications for the platform remains in place.
Top Image Credit: Wyman Laliberte