Google blocks Maps access on Windows Phone devices

Google has confessed that it did purposely block access to its Maps service on Windows Phone devices, citing "compatibility" issues with Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser as the reason for the blackout.

The problem was first noted on Friday, 4 January, when Windows Phone users trying to access the mobile web-based version of Google Maps found themselves redirected to Google.com. At the time, Google kept mum, but the company has now said that the redirect was necessary in order to provide the best experience on the mobile version of Internet Explorer.

"We periodically test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users," Google said in a statement. "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."

That's because the mobile version of Google Maps is optimised for browsers running WebKit, which Microsoft does not use.

As a result, Google said that it "chose to continue to redirect IE mobile users to Google.com."

That phrasing seemed to suggest that the redirect was in place for some time, and Google confirmed that it was, but did not have an exact date for when it was put in place.

Some media reports said that Google's explanation didn't add up because Firefox doesn't use WebKit either, yet Google Maps was accessible on Mozilla's mobile browser. Google said it did not affect a redirect on Firefox mobile because Mozilla's browser "did offer a somewhat better user experience" than IE.

On Saturday, 5 January, Google added that "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."

Google did not elaborate on what those recent improvements entailed. We checked out whether it was possible to access Google Maps on a Nokia Lumia 920 today and can confirm that the redirect is still in place at the time of publication.

There has been some bad blood between Microsoft and Google of late. Microsoft recently lashed out at Google, claiming the search giant refused to allow a "full featured" version of its YouTube app for Windows Phone. Microsoft, in turn, argued that the FTC's recent antitrust deal with Google did not go far enough.

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