Techcrunch has an interesting "rebuttal" up regarding Apple's response to the FCC over the rejection of Google Voice. I use the quotes because I think the rebuttal part itself is off-target, while the conclusion is fairly spot on. Worst things first:
[Apple's response] strongly suggests that the Google Voice app replaces much of the core Apple iPhone OS function. This certainly isn’t accurate, and we believe the statement is misleading. More details below, but in general the iPhone app is a very light touch and doesn’t interfere with any native iPhone apps at all.
The crux of their argument is that, while Google Voice provides separate voice dialing, voice mail, and SMS functionality outside Apple's built-in Phone and Messages apps, users are still free to use the built in apps. More specifically, that Google Voice only replaces these things when the Google Voice phone number is used.
Users, at least in part, are going to be replacing the AT&T number with the Google Voice number (likely the reason to get the Google Voice number for a segment of users). Ergo, they'll be replacing the built in Phone and SMS apps with the Google Voice app.
No big deal, though, right? Why should Apple care if people replace Phone and Messages with Google Voice?
Here, Techcrunch makes the kind of sense that does:
Multiple sources at Google tell us that in informal discussions with Apple over the last few months Apple expressed dismay at the number of core iPhone apps that are powered by Google. Search, maps, YouTube, and other key popular apps are powered by Google. Other than the browser, Apple has little else to call its own other than the core phone, contacts and calendar features. The Google Voice App takes things one step further, by giving users an incentive to abandon their iPhone phone number and use their Google Voice phone number instead (transcription of voicemails is reason enough alone). Apple was afraid, say our sources, that Google was gaining too much power on the iPhone, and that’s why they rejected the application.
Taking a look at the iPhone Home Screen, I see: Messages (could be replaced by Google Voice), Calendar (can already be fed by Google Calendar), Photos (no Picasa feed yet), Camera, YouTube (fed by Google), Stocks (Yahoo! ), Maps (fed by Google), Weather (Yahoo!), Voice Memos, Notes, Clock, Calculator, Settings, iTunes, App Store (no fair counting Google WebApps here), Compass, Phone (could be replaced by Google Voice), Mail (Gmail replacement app, MailWrangler, rejected from App Store, but can be fed by Gmail IMAP), iPod.
That's a fairly hefty Google presence. Previously, TiPb's mentioned how the iPhone gets the best of both worlds -- Apple and Google developing for it, while Android only gets Google. However, part of the thinking behind why Google launched Android (and Chrome, and will launch ChromeOS) is because they see themselves as a threat to traditional OS and software makers, and want to ensure they have their own platforms -- and control of those platforms -- just incase Microsoft or Apple ever decide to cut them out of those traditional OS and software spaces.
So, while Google has Android to fall back on absent the iPhone, does Apple have their own cloud services to fall back on absent Google's data pipes? Microsoft is working hard to make sure they do, and -- wait for it -- isn't Apple building a new billion-dollar data center for some undisclosed reason?
I made this analogy yesterday and I'm sticking by it -- IBM licensing DOS for the PC killed IBM and gave birth to Microsoft. Google has a near-monopoly on search-based advertising, the cash cow of the internet, and they're moving into all manner of services, now including software and mobile and desktop OS. They're becoming so directly competitive with Apple that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has left Apple's board of directors.
Apple worrying that one of their biggest, best funded, best forwardly positioned competitors is taking over the iPhone to a degree that they, rather than Apple, control the device?
Yeah, that's totally believable.
Do we think for one moment that, if instead of licensing ActiveSync to work in Mail, Calendar, and Contacts, Microsoft had wanted to put a Mobile Outlook app on the iPhone to handle all that separately, Apple still would have gone forward with it?
Would BlockBuster allow Netflix kiosks in their stores without worries? Heck, would you rent a room in your house if more and more people began living there, outnumbering your family, and began replacing your furniture with alternatives, even if better?
If, on the other hand, Google Voice transparently worked through the existing Phone and Messages application, maybe Apple wouldn't worry at all (though AT&T might at that point). Google Voice would then just be another pipe, and as I've discussed before, Apple seems to be a firm believer that the interface is the app. As long as users have a consistent front end, Apple can re-arrange the pipes behind the scenes, add or remove partners, introduce or deprecate technologies even, but the user experience stays the same, and Apple stays independent from service providers.
Google Voice being a separate app means that Google could, however unlikely it seems right now, one day decide to pull Google Voice from the iPhone and make it Android exclusive. If it works through the built-in Phone and Messages, it's less of a problem for Apple as, user-side, the experience is the same
Techcrunch believes Apple, given the FCC scrutiny, will now have no choice but to backpedal and allow Google Voice onto the iPhone, the same way a landlord afraid of being publicly called out as rude may allow that tenant to keep taking over the house.
Arguably, of course, Google has Android and can run Google Voice on Android, and if consumers want Google Voice they can simply buy Android-based phones. However, Andy Rubin just admitted Android 1.0 couldn't even run VoIP, and of those who did indeed loudly leave the iPhone and switch to Android for that very reason, several have been just as loudly unsatisfied with the current polish of Google's mobile OS. (No doubt that problem will disappear over the coming months/year).
So maybe I was wrong. Maybe it's not just users that get the benefit of Apple and Google on the iPhone, and only Google on Android. Maybe Google gets the benefit of being on everything and Apple (and Microsoft, and RIM, and Palm, etc.) only get what's left of their own, single platforms -- those few icons not powered by Google.
[Thanks striatic for the tip!]