What's behind the Google and Apple communication issues?

Earlier today, Google publically released its full answer to the FCC inquiry on Apple's treatment of Google's Voice and Latitude apps for the iPhone. Google had redacted some of the juicier bits of information when it had originally submitted the answers, but according to their blog, people had been pursuing the full text via the Freedom of Information Act. 

They decided to release the full transcript of it today which, as everyone who read it probably knew, told a different story than Apple did to the FCC.  Google claimed that the Google Voice App was flat out rejected by Apple.

The primary points of contact between the two companies were Alan Eustace, Google Senior Vice President of Engineering & Research, and Phil Schiller, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing. On July 7, Mr. Eustace and Mr. Schiller spoke over the phone. It was during this call that Mr. Schiller informed Mr. Eustace that Apple was rejecting the Google Voice application for the reasons described above in 2(a).

Apple had stated in their response to the FCC that they hadn't rejected it, that they were still evaluating it:

Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it. The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail. Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone.

Someone is lying here.  But it doesn't really matter who it is or even if it is just a matter of miscommunication between Apple and Google executives.  Apple did respond today with this:

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.

There is nothing in writing here so it is just one's word against the other.  Unless, as TechCrunch says, Google has a screenshot of the actual rejection:

This doesn't end here. As we've speculated, Apple will capitulate and accept the application with a few minor tweaks to save face. Because if they don't we've heard Google has yet another nuke waiting on the sidelines ¿ a screen shot of the actual rejection notice via the iPhone developers admin with the formal rejection. At that point, Apple will no longer be able to rely on nuances and misdirection. The FCC and everyone else will know that they lied in a government investigation. 

For those who think Apple might be telling the truth, consider not just the true Google Voice app, but the other two 3rd party apps that were already approved that got kicked out of the App Store and now reside on Cydia's jailbroken store.  If that isn't a rejection, what is?

The larger issue (especially for consumers like me) is whether or not Apple should be forced to let safe and non-adult-themed apps into the App Store.  

I'd love to have Google Voice.  I'd like to have Google Latitude even more. Incidentally, the Google un-redaction showed that there was more to that than originally reported as well.  Google originally reported that Latitude was dropped because it duplicated the functionality of Maps.app, a built in mapping program that also uses Google Maps.

Today's post showed that was only a third reason not to let the Latitude app into the App Store:

(i) replace the preloaded maps application, (ii) create user confusion since the preloaded maps application on the iPhone is a version of Google Maps, and (iii) offer new features not present on the preloaded maps application (which might also contribute to the user confusion referenced above). The Apple representatives indicated that the company did not want applications that could potentially replace such functionality and potentially create user confusion.

Apple was afraid that Google's Latitude would replace the existing Maps Application?  Imagine if Microsoft had said that they weren't letting Firefox onto Windows 7 because it could potentially replace Internet Explorer.

Realistically, it would be best for everyone involved if Apple had a change of heart and started letting competition with its apps exist.  Or at least didn't single out Google.

There are a number of other "dialers" that Apple accepted including Skype and Vonage that could easily be put in the same category of rejection.  Clearly Google gets a raw deal.

I'm not in favor of government getting in the way of market competition, but I also don't think Apple is being fair to its customers either. Apple should keep the government out of this by allowing apps that compete with Apple's own onto the iPhone.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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