Google has released a full version of its response to the FCC’s inquiry on Apple’s ban of Google Voice from the App Store, revealing the answer to ‘Question 2’ that had been redacted from the letter that was released in August. Question 2 asked Google to detail Apple’s stated reasons for rejecting both Google Voice and Google Latitude from the App Store, as well as any communication that had gone on between the parties involved. Google’s response? Apple told them the same line about “duplicating the iPhone’s core functionality” that it was giving third party developers.
No incriminating back-alley conversations. Google wasn’t trying to hide anything that could have hurt it in any way. It was just trying to give Apple a chance to take the high road. Instead, Apple apparently lied through its teeth to the FCC.
The story so far: late last July, Apple abruptly pulled all third party Google Voice iPhone applications, which had been on the App Store for months without any problems. Apple stated that these were somehow “duplicating” the iPhone’s functionality, which was a no-no. At the time Google said it was still working on its own official application, but later that day we broke the news that Google had in fact submitted its app weeks earlier, only to have it shot down by Apple. The FCC soon launched an inquiry to investigate why the application had really been rejected.
Three weeks later AT&T, Apple, and Google provided their responses to the FCC. AT&T, which had played the role of scapegoat in the debacle, proved to have little (if anything) to do with the decision. Google’s letter did its best to outline exactly what Google Voice does. And Apple spouted blatant lie after blatant lie in its inaccurate description of Google Voice, going as far as to imply that Google might be doing something nefarious with user data (though, of course, there are a number of Google apps that come pre-installed on the iPhone). And Apple triumphantly responded that it in fact had not actually rejected Google Voice (neener-neener), but that it was still “pondering” over what to make of the application.
This last point is the most interesting, because Google’s response directly contradicts it. In fact, Google’s previously redacted response explicitly says multiple times that both Google Voice and Google Latitude were rejected, in no uncertain terms. And, of course, Apple’s other claims are laughable. There are countless apps on the App Store that “duplicate” the iPhone’s functionality in some form, and the notion that users might get confused about the apps is ridiculous too — after all, users have to manually install these apps. The real reason for the ban is likely that Apple doesn’t want its device to turn into a platform dominated by Google services.
But one big question remains: why would Google redact the answer to Question 2 in the first place? Google’s response really only shows us that Apple stonewalled them the way they stonewalled everyone else (though Google did at least get some face time with Apple’s Phil Schiller). The real reason, I think, is that Google wanted to give Apple a chance to save face and let Google Voice into the App Store. Question 2 is the only place where Google explicitly says that its applications were rejected — the rest of them detail things like the way Google Voice works and whether or not Google has any more apps pending with Apple (it doesn’t). By redacting its response to Question 2, Google gave Apple the chance to make its ridiculous “pondering” claims, say it was all a misunderstanding, and let Google Voice into the app store a few days or weeks later.
But it’s been a month since those letters were released, and neither Google Voice nor Google Latitude have made their way to the App Store. Google could have fought the Freedom of Information Act requests that sought the unedited letter, but there really isn’t much point any more. It’s time to remove any doubt as to who the bad guy is here: Apple.
Image by brankomaster.