Applause IT

The countdown to Christmas has started, that can only mean one thing, the battle of the Christmas Apps. Fresh out of the starting blocks are Google and Microsoft (with North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) going head to head with their "Santa Tracking"

Christmas has always been a great time for online games and gimmicks, more downtime in the office means more time to pass things on. Anyone working in viral marketing will tell you it's a great time for seeding content. That combined with jingle bells on the radio and the boss wearing his Christmas tie it's a great time to look at the fun elements of tech.

So, how are the two tech giants approaching their big Christmas push?

There are similarities across both approaches as you'd expect. Both have gone for a light hearted cartoon approach designed to be appealing across a broad range of audiences; both have the all-important countdown to Christmas, using an advent calendar style where users have to come back each day as more functionality is unlocked.

Both trackers have been designed to work on mobile as well as web, Google offers an Android app and Norad's on iOS, Android and Windows so users can access anytime, anywhere.

Microsoft and Norad's approach has been to create a dedicated website with eight different language options and content for a range of audiences games, music and animations. There's a theatre where you can watch movies about Santa and a gift shop, with very limited gifts.

Google's interactive village offers similar content for users, games like Santa Dive and great animations. Perhaps most excitingly certainly for us as IT recruiters is Google is rolling out an initiative via the app to teach kids the basics of coding, it'll be written in basic JavaScript and will offer kids instant access to achieve something tangible with code.

The history of Santa tracking is possibly more interesting than you think, in 2007 Norad worked with Google on a Santa tracker. However, last year they announced they had left Google out in the cold and were cosying up next to the Christmas fire with Microsoft using Bing Maps. Not one to be defeated Google went away and built its own version using the original Google Maps.

So, which do we prefer, it's a tough call. Surprisingly we didn't find either completely intuitive, there were certainly times when we were bounced off and didn't expect to be. The trailer on YouTube for Norad's approach certainly has the best marketing campaign behind it. However, Google's app has more of a genuine Christmas theme and some hidden gems in there, especially for teachers looking for KS content, so it is well worth a look. Ultimately Google gets our vote!

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