The Google Voice Debacle
On July 31, the Federal Communications Commission sent letters to Google, Apple and AT&T inquiring why Apple rejected the Google Voice application from its iPhone App Store. Google Voice is a Web-based call management application offering free SMS and inexpensive international calls. Apple rejected it from its App Store market for iPhone applications several weeks ago, but it was only when third-party Google Voice apps such as GV Mobile and VoiceCentral were unceremoniously booted from the App Store last week that the issue surfaced.Some thought Apple partner and lone iPhone AT&T was the culprit for the Google Voice freeze-out, but AT&T only referred inquirers back to Apple. Programmers, journalists and bloggers wrote about the situation, with some such as TechCrunch's Michael Arrington and Mac developer Steve Frank promising to shelve their iPhones for other smartphones. IPhone and Google Voice users commented on the situation en masse. Most people seem to believe Apple and AT&T are in collusion to freeze out rivals in a ferociously competitive market for mobile and wireless applications. Others believe it is a situation where Apple has the right to defend its iPhone from competing products. Whatever the case, the FCC is determined to get to the bottom of the matter. James D. Schlichting, acting chief of the wireless telecommunications bureau of the FCC, penned detailed questions for Google, Apple and AT&T. He wants to know why Apple banned Google Voice; whether or not AT&T was consulted in the matter; and how Apple decides to reject or discontinue certain apps in its App Store, among other things. The broader issue is that applications programmed for wireless devices don't follow the same rules of the road as those written for desktop computing appliances. Any app will work on a computer, but carriers such as Verizon and AT&T tightly control what phones are used on their networks, as well as what apps will work on them. This race over competitive advantages hurts the consumer. Now with Schmidt gone from Apple's board, the world can expect to see competition between Google and Apple go full throttle. Enderle told eWEEK: "The FCC letter clearly forced the issue." More on TechMeme here.
An Apple spokesperson told the third-party programmers that their apps were punted for having features that competed with the iPhone. However, when pressed for more information, the spokesperson stonewalled the developers. Google also did not provide clarity as to why Apple did not accept Google Voice.