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More on Kessler and Apple’s Reply to the FCC

Apple has responded to the FCC’s inquiry into the “rejection” of Google Voice. As my friend and colleague Paul Rodriguez and I suggested yesterday, the reasons Google Voice has not been approved have nothing to do with AT&T. From Apple’s filing:

Question 2. Did Apple act alone, or in consultation with AT&T, in deciding to reject the Google Voice application and related applications? If the latter, please describe the communications between Apple and AT&T in connection with the decision to reject Google Voice. Are there any contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T that affected Apple’s decision in this matter?
Apple is acting alone and has not consulted with AT&T about whether or not to approve the Google Voice application. No contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T have been a factor in Apple’s decision-making process in this matter.

So why was Google Voice rejected? Well… It wasn’t.

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. For example, on an iPhone, the “Phone” icon that is always shown at the bottom of the Home Screen launches Apple’s mobile telephone application, providing access to Favorites, Recents, Contacts, a Keypad, and Visual Voicemail. The Google Voice application replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple’s Visual Voicemail. Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub—replacing the iPhone’s text messaging feature. In addition, the iPhone user’s entire Contacts database is transferred to Google’s servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time. (emphasis mine)

The statement in bold type above would be reason enough not to approve the application in my eyes. If they cannot obtain assurances from Google that the transfer of my contacts to Google servers won’t result in privacy violations, the application doesn’t deserve approval. Period.

There is an interesting discussion of some AT&T requirements that applications can be written to take advantage of wi-fi connections but not AT&T’s mobile network. For instance, AT&T does not allow TV signals to be routed over their 3G network in order to prevent congestion. For that reason, the reply states, Sling Media’s SlingPlayer Mobile was initially rejected and modified by Sling to work only on a wi-fi connection. The letter also states (though I have not verified this) that AT&T’s terms of service state these prohibitons.

So it appears that a) Andy Kessler is still as wrong, b) AT&T had nothing to do with the Google Voice "rejection", c) Google Voice has not actually been rejected, it just hasn’t been approved, and d) Google may have actually made their statement in an effort to bring public pressure to bear against Apple.


Written by Michael Turk