By Harry McCracken | Friday, September 18, 2009 at 11:02 am
Last month, Apple, AT&T, and Google all responded to the FCC’s request for information on the circumstances regarding Apple’s failure to approve some Google applications for release on the iPhone App Store. The letters became public, and helped to explain what was going on. Except that Google chose to redact its answer to a really important question in the version of the letter released for general consumption:
Several people filed Freedom of Information Act requests to see the unexpurgated letter, and rather than fight the requests, Google has decided to accept publication of the full letter. Here’s the section we didn’t see before:
On one level, there’s nothing surprising here: In Apple’s own letter to the FCC, it said it hadn’t approved Google Voice largely because it “altered(d)” and “replace(d)” placed Apple’s own phone-related features with ones designed by Google. (Alter and replace probably aren’t the right words here: Google Voice would be an additional way to make calls on the iPhone, and Apple’s features would remain unchanged. But you get the idea.)
But here’s one bombshell: Apple’s letter denied that the company had rejected Google Voice and said that it was still “studying” and “ponder(ing)” the app. Google’s letter, however, says that Apple told it that Google Voice had been rejected, period. The real-world difference is pretty much moot, since an application that enters a permanent limbo of being studied and pondered is no more useful to the world than one that’s been rejected. But it still seems to be a fundamental disagreement on a matter of fact: Apple says it didn’t reject the app, and Google says it did.
Also interesting: Google says the matter went all the way up to Phil Schiller. That would remove the possibility that Google Voice ran into trouble because of hasty and/or inconsistent decision-making by lower-level employees involved in the App Store. Apple knew what it was doing.
Just how directly was Google CEO’s exodus from the Apple board tied to this disagreement? Your guess is as good as mine, but if Schmidt were still on the board today it would be particularly strange given the Rashomon-like situation that’s developed.
As I’ve said before, I want a phone that lets me replace standard functionality with new and useful alternatives. Apple says that doing so may confuse iPhone owners, but I have a hunch that most of them are smart enough to deal with it–and hey, if they’re baffled, they can always delete the app in question.
I continue to think that Apple will eventually come to the conclusion that a more open-minded approach to iPhone app approval is in its own best interest. I just hope it decides that sooner rather than later, and without further nudging by the FCC.
Accepting and releasing Google Voice in the form Google originally submitted it wouldn’t address the larger issues here, but it would be an awfully good start…