Google Says Apple Rejected Google Voice

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-09-18

Update: Did Apple lie? No, Apple said.

Contrary to statements from Apple last month, Google said that Apple did in fact reject the Google Voice application the search giant submitted to the iPhone maker's App Store June 2. Apple told Google it rejected the application because it duplicated core dial functionality on Apple's iPhone, according to an unredacted document from Google.

The detail came to light Sept. 18, when Google caved to a Freedom of Information Act request and the Federal Communications Commission released a complete chronicle of the conversations Google and Apple conducted over the Google Voice application. A PDF of this document may be viewed here.

Apple spokesperson Natalie Kerris disputed Google's characterization of the conversations in a statement sent to eWEEK: "We do not agree with all of the statements made by Google in their FCC letter. Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application and we continue to discuss it with Google."

The issue erupted in July when developers of third-party Google Voice applications said their programs were booted from the App Store for competing too closely with features in Apple's iPhone.

Soon after, Google revealed that its own Google Voice application, which serves as a calling management service by letting users ring multiple phones through a single number, had not been accepted by Apple.

When Apple refused to explain the reason for the rejections to the media, the Federal Communications Commission sent letters to Apple, AT&T and Google asking about the rejection of the Google Voice for iPhone app.

In answering the FCC Aug. 21, Apple claimed it never actually rejected the Google Voice app and that it is still studying it. TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington blasted Apple for lying about this issue.

For no clear reason, Google asked the FCC to keep details about its conversations with Apple over Google Voice confidential. Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, explained in a blog post today that the conversations were "sensitive":

When we submitted our letter on August 21, we asked the FCC to redact certain portions that involved sensitive commercial conversations between two companies -- namely, a description of e-mails, telephone conversations, and in-person meetings between executives at Google and Apple. Shortly afterward, several individuals and organizations submitted Freedom of Information Act requests with the FCC seeking access to this information. While we could have asked the FCC to oppose those requests, in light of Apple's decision to make its own letter fully public and in the interest of transparency, we decided to drop our request for confidentiality.

Google claimed Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of engineering and research, and Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research, met in person, spoke by phone and e-mailed several times about Google Voice between July 5 and July 28. On July 7, Schiller informed Eustace that Apple was rejecting Google Voice because of the overlap in dialing capabilities between Google Voice and the iPhone.

The document also chronicled Apple's initial rejection of Google Latitude, which Google later rewrote as a Web application, which the App Store accepted.

The Google Voice rejection revelation is the latest black eye for Apple, which is weathering regular criticism for the inconsistent ways it deals with applications submitted to the App Store. Developers are fed up and/or scared to submit apps to Apple for fear of rejection.

Following the same path it did with getting Google Latitude into the App store, Google is preparing a Web application version of Google Voice.

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