INTERNATIONAL – Last fall, I uploaded some family videos to YouTube. Then I bought my mother an Amazon Fire TV so she could access them on her living room television.
Well, so much for being a good son. At the end of the year, as you may have heard, Google cut off access to YouTube from Amazon’s popular line of connected TV devices. Now, when my mom presses the remote-control button for YouTube, Amazon invites her to select between two web browsers, instead of taking her to the popular video sharing app.
It’s all part of an ongoing standoff between the two tech giants that’s nearly gotten lost amid the bitcoin boom, the big chip flaw, SoftBank-Uber and Donald Trump’s tweets. But the fight is significant and even frightening in its implications for customers and the principles of internet openness. Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., two of the largest companies in the world, are slugging it out in pursuit of their own agendas, hurting customers in the process.
The battle goes back years. Back in 2011, Amazon developed its own version of the Android operating system for its Kindle Fire tablets, leaving apps like Google’s Play Store off the device and offering its own app store. More recently, Amazon has kept its Prime Video app—the service that offers up shows like the Man in the High Castle and the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel—off Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast set-top-boxes.