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FCC probes Apple's rejection of Google Voice for iPhone

Asks Apple, AT&T and Google what they know, and when they knew it

July 31, 2009 08:56 PM ET

Computerworld - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late Friday launched an investigation into Apple's rejection of Google Voice for the iPhone, and the removal of similar software from the App Store.

In a letter sent to Apple, the FCC asked the company why it turned down Google Voice for the iPhone and pulled several other Google Voice-related programs from the iPhone's only sanctioned online mart. The FCC also sent similar letters to both AT&T -- Apple's exclusive carrier partner in the U.S. -- and Google, asking both firms to provide more information on the issue.

The FCC's letter (PDF download) asked Apple whether it rejected Google Voice and dumped other applications on its own, or "in consultation with AT&T," and if the latter, to describe the conversations the partners had.

In other questions, the FCC asked Apple whether AT&T has any role in the approval of iPhone applications, wants the company to explain how Google Voice differs from any other VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) software that has been approved and requested a list of all applications that have been rejected and why.

Finally, the FCC asked Apple to explain its App Store approval process, something that some developers have said is so shrouded in secrecy that they don't know the rules. "What are the standards for considering and approving iPhone applications?," the FCC letter asked. "What is the approval process for such applications (timing, reasons for rejection, appeal process, etc.)? What is the percentage of applications that are rejected? What are the major reasons for rejecting an application?"

"This is great news," said Kevin Duerr, the CEO of Durham, N.C.-based Riverturn Inc., the developer of VoiceCentral, one of the Google Voice-related applications that Apple yanked from the App Store this week. "Obviously, who knows where this will go, but we're all for that inquiry," he said late Friday. "This is the kind of investigation that needs to be done anyway on Apple's policies in the App Store."

Duerr applauded the FCC's demand for the specifics of Apple's approval process. "It's precisely what developers want. I can't speak for all developers, of course, but all we want is a level playing field. I can accept, no, I can understand 'My house, my rules,' but I don't understand what the rules are."

This week, Duerr took Apple to task for pulling VoiceCentral, and in an interview yesterday raked the company over the coals for the paucity of information about why it removed his company's software from the App Store.

"I know that they're Apple, and they love their shroud of secrecy, but I don't understand it in this line of business," Duerr said Thursday. "What's the harm in telling developers why an app has been rejected or pulled from the App Store? Why wouldn't you say: 'Here's why.'"

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