10 Ways Apple Can Fix the Google Voice Public Relations Blunder

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10 Ways Apple Can Fix the Google Voice Public Relations Blunder

Apple is now in a public relations nightmare after banning Google Voice applications from its App Store for duplicating features on the company's iPhone. Apple did not adequately explain the reason for the ban and the Federal Communications Commission came calling, sending letters to Google, Apple and iPhone carrier AT&T to get to the heart of the matter. Was Apple behind the Google Voice ban? Was it AT&T? Even if AT&T was the trigger, it was Apple that took the public initiative to ban Google Voice, which aggravated some programmers and bloggers enough to quit the iPhone. Customers are angry and the government wants to find out how this happened. Apple and the others have until August 21 to answer the FCC's inquiries. We can't help Apple with the current issues, but here's how Apple can improve its reputation to avoid future flare-ups.

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1) Be Open and Transparent

Apple doesn't just groom a culture of secrecy, it flaunts it as a calling card. While companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft blog most feature upgrades, products and policy changes, Apple operates in something of a black box, telling the world what it wants, when it wants. Would it kill the company to be a little more transparent about its policies and procedures? We don't think so. Secrecy does not scale. To wit...

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2) Change the Nebulous App Store Policies

Apple accepted third-party Google Voice applications GV Mobile and VoiceCentral, then banned those applications, allegedly telling their developers that their apps overlap with some iPhone features. Letting apps in and then pushing them out is no way to do honest business. Be clear from the start about what you will accept and won't.

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3) But Dont Change The Rules Once Theyre in Place

Once an application is in the App Store, don't yank it. That's no way to treat the apps' users, or the programmers who sweat and bled over them. That taunts developers who are trying to make a living writing useful apps for the iPhone.

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4) Answer The Media Before You Answer The FCC

Media wrote ad nauseum about the Google Voice bans; now more outlets are chronicling every app that gets banned from the App Store. Media, developers and customers want to know why Apple appears so arbitrary in its App Store policies. Apple must come clean by August 21 because the FCC asked it to. We say it should come clean to media, developers and customers before it answers the FCC. This will foster goodwill between Apple and everyone else.

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5) Case in Point

Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller wrote a detailed explanation about why the Ninjawords application was removed from Apple's App Store for the Daring Fireball blog. But as TechCrunch points out, there is nothing about the Google Voice ban. Why respond to one blog about one app, but not respond to the media at large for a much larger ban on Google Voice apps? This inconsistency epitomizes Apple's abject failure at transparency.

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6) What if I Dont Want to Use Safari?

Apple makes us use the Safari browser for its iPhone. But plenty of people like to use Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome and even Microsoft Internet Explorer. Stop locking us in to Safari. It might be great, but it's not what everyone wants. Is choice not better?

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7) Bring the iPhone to Other Carriers

The dissatisfaction with AT&T's mobile phone service is well documented. It drops a lot of calls for millions of iPhone users all over the U.S. As with the browser exclusivity issue, the choice of more carriers is not only preferred, but demanded by the public. Open the iPhone to Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and anyone else who wants to use it.

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8) Do This Before The FCC Makes You Do It

Again, be proactive, not reactive. The FCC under new chairman Julius Genachowski is considering creating new rules that would prohibit exclusivity in cell phone handset deals, as well as in applications. That would mean that iPhones wouldn't have to run solely on AT&T's wireless network. Apple will look much better by freeing up its iPhone before the FCC requires it.

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9) Apple Looks Very Similar to What it Hates Most: Microsoft

Where do all of these inconsistent App Store policies and mobile service and application bans lead to? Apple is beginning to strike people as a controlling, bundling megalomaniacal company. Control is its drug. Apple may scream about protecting its IP and business lines all it wants, but people are upset and Apple needs to make some changes because too many issues are coming to an endgame of frustration that can only bite Apple. Apple needs to make some changes, but....

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10) Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

The secrecy culture and idiosyncrasies start and end with Steve Jobs, who had been doing this for three-plus decades now. Heal the master and you heal Apple. We're not saying fire the guy, but he definitely should take some control management classes (like anger management but for control freaks. Do they even exist? If not, they should.)