Why Did Government Santa Tracker, NORAD, Ditch Google For Microsoft?


Microsoft got an official Christmas present from the big man himself. No, not Santa–Uncle Sam. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which has delightfully perpetuated the myth of a flying present-giver on Christmas Eve since the 1950’s by ‘tracking’ Santa, decided to ditch its 5-year-old partnership with Google Maps in favor of Bing. “Google supported NTS [NORAD Tracks Santa] from 2007-2011 and helped increase NTS program awareness across the globe; NORAD is grateful for the partnership and the resulting success. This year, NTS and Google mutually agreed to go in new directions,” an NORAD spokesman told Search Engine Land.

The abrupt change is a little perplexing, especially since Google eclipses Microsoft on most meaningful measures. Even after Apple’s disastrous iPhone 5 maps fiasco led the company to recommend alternative apps, such as Bing, Google still made worldwide headlines when it released the long-awaited maps app last week. Google-starved Apple users downloaded the maps application 10 million times in just 48 hours (and who knows how many since then).

In the UK, Google Maps has a whopping 89% market share, compared to Bing’s 4%. “Watch out, Google: if last month’s search share loss carries on, then by February 2016 Microsoft’s Bing will have overtaken you,” wrote the Guardian, with a tongue-in-cheek graph that extrapolated Microsoft overtaking Google maps based Bing’s tiny 0.72% increase in market share in October.

NORAD’s official Santa tracker app has received 223 times more downloads on Google’s smartphone operating system, Android, than Windows Phone 8, according to ABC News.

“Google has significantly more resources devoted to a task that would seem to be very critical for Santa’s success,” said Mike Blumenthal, founder of the blog, Understanding Google Places & Local Search.

I’ll leave the conspiracy theories–or rational explanations–up to our readers in the comments, because I’m stumped.