Updated: Apple shuts the door on all Google Voice applications, including third-party applications that support search engine giant Google's VOIP and telephony product, which is rolling out to more users. Google Voice duplicates some features in the iPhone, but analysts believe Apple's chilliness also stems from its relationship with AT&T. Carriers dislike Google Voice because of the free SMS and cheap international calls it provides.
In a sign that Apple
will not always play nice with Google,
Apple has banned
the Google Voice application, as well as third-party Google Voice applications,
from its iPhone App Store,
ostensibly because Google Voice
features compete with those in the iPhone.
Reached by phone July 28, Apple spokesperson Jennifer Bowcock declined to
comment, but a Google spokesperson confirmed the ban of Google Voice in a
statement to eWEEK July 27:
Apple did not approve the Google Voice
application we submitted six weeks ago to the Apple App Store. We will continue
to work to bring our services to iPhone users-for example, by taking advantage
of advances in mobile browsers.
The move was first reported by TechCrunch and there is additional coverage
Earlier in the day on July 27, iPhone application developer Sean Kovacs said
his popular application GV Mobile, which lets users make calls and send SMS (Short
Message Service) messages from a Google Voice number to any other number in a
contact list, was also removed from the App Store.
Kovacs wrote in his blog:
"Richard Chipman from Apple
just called-he told me they're removing GV Mobile from the App Store due to it
duplicating features that the iPhone comes with (Dialer, SMS, etc). He didn't
actually specify which features, although I assume the whole app in
VoiceCentral, which does the same thing GV Mobile does, was also banned from
the App Store, but not until reporters asked Google about Google Voice did
anyone learn that Google's application had been give the cold shoulder as well.
While Apple is maintaining its silence on the subject, TechCrunch speculates
that Apple's treatment of Google Voice applications
comes courtesy of sole iPhone carrier AT&T. Update: Daring Fireball's John Gruber confirmed this through a source
Phone companies are leery of Google
Voice, which does an end run around their services by providing free SMS and
cheap international calling services.
Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle acknowledged
that Apple and AT&T would indeed have reason to shunt Google Voice to the
side. Enderle told eWEEK:
With Google Voice, the competitive
issue would exist with both Apple and AT&T because it reverses the strategy
Apple has with iTunes and Safari on the PC (use them to pull customers to Apple
products from Windows) to apply to the new Android phone platform and, since it
is VOIP [voice over IP], it potentially cuts AT&T's revenue stream as well.
More broadly, Enderle noted that programmers are having a hard time figuring
out what applications will or won't be accepted in the App Store, adding that
Apple is showing a trend toward blocking or crippling applications that appear
to be competing.
Enderle pointed to streaming music application Slacker, which is crippled on
the iPhone and can't be used on an airplane. However, Slacker works on a BlackBerry
during flight just fine.
"Out here [in Silicon Valley], the metaphor used
to describe Apple's app approval process is 'Russian Roulette,'" Enderle
The combination of a cryptic process and this anticompetitive behavior has
some developers turning to write programs for Research In Motion's BlackBerry
operating system, Google's Android OS and Palm's Palm WebOS, Enderle said.
The banning of Google Voice and associated applications isn't the first time
Google has had to kowtow to Apple. Google introduced Google Latitude for the iPhone
July 23, but must now rewrite
it to be a Web application.
"After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple
requested we release Latitude as a Web application in order to avoid confusion
with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles," Google
Mobile Team Product Manager Mat Balez
wrote in a blog post.
Apple's chilliness toward Google's Web services is interesting given
Google's supposed closeness with Apple. Analysts have long seen Google and
Apple as linked arm and arm against enemy Microsoft, and Google CEO
Eric Schmidt commands a seat on Apple's board.
The question is how long Apple and Google will remain close as they continue
along their competitive path regarding Web services for mobile phones.