Google, Apple, ATandT Responses to the FCC on Google Voice Fail to Satisfy

Google, Apple and AT&T all answer the Federal Communications Commission's questions about the band of the Google Voice application from Apple's iPhone App Store. Apple claims the competition was too close. AT&T claims it had no bearing on the situation. Google answers the questions under a confidentiality cloak. The FCC is reviewing the companies' responses, which are sure to draw more questions.

If the public was expecting any startling wizard to reveal himself from behind the curtain of controversy surrounding Apple's rejection of the Google Voice application for its iPhone App Store, it was sorely disappointed. In fact, answers about the issue from Apple, AT&T and Google to the Federal Communications Commission may leave the public more confused.

That's because Apple claimed it has not technically rejected Google Voice from its App Store; it just hasn't accepted it yet because it is still studying it. Exclusive iPhone carrier AT&T denied it had anything to do with why Google Voice was not accepted to the App Store. Google fueled the intrigue by requesting confidentiality in many of its answers to the FCC, which requested clarity from the three companies about the Google Voice brouhaha.

Google Voice is a call management application that gives users one phone number through which to route their phone calls to home, work and mobile phone. Google submitted a version of the application to Apple's App Store in the hope that it would run on Apple's iPhone. Google revealed that Apple had also rejected its version of Google Voice for the iPhone in July after Apple booted third-party applications from its App Store. Apple declined to provide reasons for the Google Voice ban.

The FCC July 31 sent letters to Google, Apple and AT&T to find out why all this happened; the three companies responded Aug. 21.

Apple said the Google Voice application has not been approved because it replaces the iPhone's core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voice mail. In short, Apple feels the Google Voice application cuts into some of the action provided by the iPhone's operating system, its crown jewel. Apple explained the overlaps between Google Voice and iPhone:

""For example, on an iPhone, the 'Phone' icon that is always shown at the bottom of the Home Screen launches Apple's mobile telephone application, providing access to Favorites, Recents, Contacts, a Keypad, and Visual Voicemail. The Google Voice application replaces Apple's Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple's Visual Voicemail. Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub-replacing the iPhone's text messaging feature. In addition, the iPhone user's entire Contacts database is transferred to Google's servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time.""

However, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington blasted these statements as outright lies and claimed that Apple did in fact reject Google Voice. Daring Fireball's John Gruber was also discomfited by Apple's apparent "semantic hair splitting"; is it fair to classify something that has not been rejected unapproved?