Google's mobile strategy, notwithstanding the Android Market, is browser centric. In terms of creating a consistent user experience that is globally scalable and cost effective, Google is banking on the mobile Web and the browser as opposed to developing app after app. In addition the recent rejection of its Latitude and Google Voice apps probably nudge Google further in this direction -- where it doesn't have to contend with "gatekeepers," something the company has never liked.
Today we released a new mobile website specifically designed to access YouTube on smartphones with capable browsers; phones like the iPhone, G1 and Palm Pre.
Just visit youtube.com from your mobile phone, and you'll be taken to a new website specially designed for your device.
These are all handsets that already have native YouTube apps. It would appear to be unnecessary then to create a mobile Web site that provides an app-like experience. What's more Google has taken the position (regarding its mobile AdSense program) that the Safari and Android browsers don't require special landing pages or sites optimized for mobile, because the browsers can faithfully render the PC site and provide a good user experience accordingly.
Yet Google has created this application-like mobile site that is almost indistinguishable from the YouTube app. The app has slightly more functionality; however the mobile Web site offers a "branded" experience that is more consistent with YouTube on the PC than the native apps. That may be part of the motivation -- to bring more consistency to the PC and mobile experiences. But, again, why is it necessary given the presence of the YouTube apps?
The new mobile Web version of the site appears to contradict or question the 1:1 PC-mobile Web vision that Google has been publicly articulating. That's because it auto-detects the browsers on the iPhone, Pre and G1/MyTouch 3G and automatically shows you the new mobile site rather than the PC site. Indeed, you no longer have the option to go to the PC site on these handsets. So the features of the PC site that are not part of the app are no longer available to mobile users.
Neither the app version nor the mobile Web version offer the full-length programming available through the PC site. That may be contractual or it may be that Google doesn't yet believe it can deliver the full-length programs on the small screen. However, that's coming from Hulu and Neflix in the near term.
These are not criticisms. I'm just mildly perplexed.