• Google Voice: The Throwdown

    image via TheNextWeb

    Friday saw a war of press releases between Apple and Google over the apparent rejection of the Google Voice app on the App Store. The Googleplex and One Infinite Loop made public more details on their dispute, which cuts right to the heart of public perceptions of both companies, Apple's willingness to allow competition in key areas of iPhone functionality, and the coming battle for dominance in the mobile device marketplace.

    Last month, the FCC began an investigation into reports that Apple had blocked Google Voice from the App Store. It sent letters to Google, Apple and AT&T, requesting details on communications between the companies, whether the app had in fact been blocked, and whether AT&T had played any role in the decision. In response, Apple sent a letter to the FCC, saying in part "Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it."

    Google also sent a response to the FCC. Surprisingly, though, portions of the letter were kept secret, or "redacted," at the time: in specific, the response to the question "What explanation (if any) was given for Apple's rejection of the Google Voice application?" Yesterday, in a clear shot over Apple's bow, Google asked the FCC to release the redacted section. In it, Google clearly points the finger at Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, claiming that Schiller told Google's Senior VP of Engineering & Research, Alan Eustace, that Apple was rejecting the app because it duplicated Apple's iPhone dialing and voicemail functions.

    Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris responded by categorically denying that the app had been rejected:
    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 two companies present diametrically opposed versions of events: the difference between "rejected" and "not rejected" is not a subtle one. If Apple and Google are in negotiations over how to modify Google Voice to make it acceptable to Apple, why is Google presenting it otherwise? If, on the other hand, Apple made it clear that Google Voice would not be allowed on the App Store, why is Apple denying that?

    Other developers have complained about Apple's lack of openness about rejected apps. Riverturn's Kevin Duerr expressed his frustrations over Apple's rejection of his VoiceCentral app in an interview with Computerworld in July. "What's the harm in telling developers why an app has been rejected or pulled from the App Store?" Duerr said. "Other than the volume of apps that are submitted, I don't see the problem with taking action. Why wouldn't you say: 'Here's why.'"

    Obviously, both Apple and Google can't be right, and nobody who wasn't present at the discussion between Schiller and Eustace can know for sure who's telling the truth. There is one indisputable fact on the table, though, as Cult of Mac's Leander Kahney notes: Google Voice is not on the App Store. As long as that's the case, the burden of explanation lies squarely on Apple, Inc.
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