Apple Responds to FCC Questions (Google and AT&T as Well)

Apple Responds to FCC

Apple has responded to the FCC's questions, issued following the controversial rejection of Google's Google Voice application (though, in their response, it looks like Apple is claiming they haven't rejected Google Voice, but are merely reviewing it (updated: under the dubious "duplicates functionality" rationale, due to independant dialing and to see if it violates Apple's contract with AT&T not to allow VoIP over AT&T's data network.)

We are pleased to respond to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s inquiry dated July 31, 2009, requesting information regarding Apple’s App Store and its application approval process. In order to give the Bureau some context for our responses, we begin with some background information about the iPhone and the App Store.

The entire document is available via Apple.com.

Google and AT&T responded as well, though not on their own websites yet. Engadget is hosting their letters. AT&T claims they were never contacted about Google Voice, however if their contract with Apple forbids it, like Skype and other VoIP apps, Apple wouldn't have to contact them, so again -- huge round of jeers for AT&T's non-denial denials.

[Thanks to Doug for the tip)

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Apple Responds to FCC Questions (Google and AT&T as Well)

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it looks like Apple is claiming they haven’t rejected Google Voice, but are merely reviewing it to see if it violates Apple’s contract with AT&T n

Backpedaling furiously is my assessment.
If it did violate a contract, they would not have banned it and all other GV apps, simply required them to be limited to WIFI like skype.
Nerve has been struck.

you say "Apple is claiming they haven’t rejected Google Voice, but are merely reviewing it to see if it violates Apple’s contract with AT&T not to allow VoIP over AT&T’s data network.)"
but apple says:
"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."
i think you need to revise/update this blog post, after reading Apple's responses in full. this is how false rumours get started.

You're right, they said that, but they also said they were uncertain if it used VoIP and were continuing to investigate. I'll update to include both.

i find apple's responses misleading and disingenuous.
the google voice app doesn't "replace" the apple functionality in the sense that most people would think of "replace". it doesn't erase the iphone app icon and it doesn't rewire the phone to a new number.
GV integrates with the existing functionality as much as possible, but if people want to use both their google voice number and carrier supplied number at the same time, it isn't like the google voice app prevents the user from using a "pure" iphone workflow alongside a "impure" google voice workflow on the same device at the same time.
it is all very ridiculous, this idea that these apps would cause massive confusion among iphone users, and that the only reason these apps are banned is so apple can protect its poor, confused and helpless users from the big, bad confusing google applications.
if apple was being totally honest, they'd also say "we don't want the main way people use our phone to be via google applications and websites, because that will make it easier to switch to another phone with similar applications at a later date"... but i doubt that would go over very well with the FCC, let alone the FTC.

The key paragraph stating Apple's objections to GV is this one:

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.

Now this is entirely a pack of lies.
The GV app did not do any of those things. GV did not replace ANY Apple functionality it merely added another application.
Calls to your phone still go to your phone, or Visual Voicemail. Calls to your GV number optionally go to your GV voice mail (its your choice). It absolutely does not disable Visual Voicemail.
You don't need to sync your addresses, and if you want to that functionality is already present in Mail Contacts and Calendars.
I could go on... but why bother.
This is about as close to an outright LIE I've seen any company put on paper in response to a federal investigation.

They have had the application for months, and have not been able to determine if it uses VOIP? That is not only being disingenous to the FCC, that is being downright insulting as to the quality of Apple's reviewers and engineers.

This is such complete BS by Apple. Only Apple could take such a sweet device and nearly ruin with their corporate policies! And it just screams that Daddy Jobs attitude that he knows what is best for EVERYONE.
If you read the whole thing the main BS that stands out is Apple's claim that GV "replaces" the Apple dialing and SMS interfaces. It doesn't replace them in the least. They are still there, and a user could continue to use them if they WISHED TO!
Good lord, could you imagine the stink that would be heard throughout the land if MS decided that only software approved by them could be installed on a PC? And OMG, the heavens would implode if one of their criteria for approving an app included the rule that it not "replace" any functionality of Windows? No other browsers, no other back-up, no other system utilities, no other email software, nothing.
It's offical -- the IPhone is a great piece of hardware made my a really, really crappy company, and restricted to THE worst cell phone company in the US.

@Fassy:

being downright insulting as to the quality of Apple’s reviewers

There may be some room for debate here.
At lease one Ex-Apple employee has stated that they hire people who's principal training involves scanning for "dirty words".

apple's big problem is that:
true google voice workflow is better than hacky google voice workflow is better than normal iphone workflow.
so people set up a hacky google voice workflow on their iphone, which is not only useable but also better than the normal iphone workflow due to the additional functionality it has to offer.
at this point they realize how limited the traditional apple + at&t phone functionality is, but also realize that the google voice workflow is going to be so much more integrated and so much smoother over on an android phone. so they start eyeing android phones.
so apple has 2 options.
one is to let google voice integrate completely into the native iphone dialer, or actually fully replace it. this isn't going to happen.
the other is to ban google voice from the iphone and build their own version that they can bundle with mobileMe.
if i was a betting man, my money would be on the latter.

@striatic: I think that's a reasonable theory. Google Voice could be seen by Apple as a "trojan horse" into the full Google ecosystem, and letting it on could be seen by them as akin to IBM putting MS DOS on the PC -- giving away the keys to the kingdom to what will become a competitor.
BTW - Apple's iPhone isn't an open platform. Nintendo doesn't let any app anyone wants on the Wii or DS, the problem here is Apple should just say "it's an appliance, you got what we want you to get" and not bother with the sophistry. 90% of users likely wouldn't care if it's an appliance either way, right now 10% of users who know better feel like they're being bamboozled -- and insulted.

@Rene: If you're not insulted when a major corporation lies to you (and your government) that a sure sign you're under their spell.
And game systems are not the same as cell phones. By the way, does ANY game system hold sway over WHAT games can be developed for it? Not that I know of.

@RDJ: Absolutely they do, you can't develop for a gaming system unless you license the right, buy an expensive development kit, and get your game approved and published by the console maker -- and there are often exclusive deals which prevent owners of rival consoles from getting games (I believe Fable 3 was just announced as exclusive to Xbox, and I have a PS3, but it's Microsoft's and the developers business, I can just chose not to buy and support them).
Corporations exist to make money for their stake holders. I generally don't believe anything any of them say. I don't think Microsoft is open. I don't think Google is "not evil", and I don't think Apple is about anything other than their aesthetic and their margins...
Great old story:
Snake asks monk to give it ride across the river. Monk says know, snake will bite him and he'll drown. Snake says if it bites him, they'll both drown. Monk sees logic of statement, gives snake ride across the river. Half way across, snake bites him. Monk is astonished, now they will both die. Snake tells monk it's a snake, it's its nature to bite and the monk knew that when he picked it up...

Do any of the complainers use the iPhone feedback site? I'm the annoying guy that mentions that every so often. It is not likely that they will gauge feedback on blogs like this.
However a storm of feedback on their feedback site might deliver a clue. Call me a hippie wussbag, but I think it is true.

@Rene
You keep using the console analogy, but it does not hold. Nintendo does not keep off the Wii arbitrarily -- developers have a clear set of conditions when they purchase the development kit, and, if they abide by those agreements, they are on. The days of the NES "Seal" licensing are long gone, in large part because (LESSON TO APPLE HERE) they hurt the Nintento developer community, and better third party games sprouted on other platforms.
And Apple is going WAY beyond what Nintendo did on their worst days. Apple acts arbitrarily, and protect their own products from competition. (Paraphrasing an earlier comment I do not feel like looking up.) SONY does not keep Sonic off the PS2/3 to protect Crash Bandicoot. Microsoft does not keep First Person Shooters off the XBox to protect their Halo franchise. It would be ludicrous and self-defeating for a console maker to even think of that.
Yet Apple does this, and people ignore the self-defeating path and cheer.

@Dev: Microsoft didn't let XBMC onto the Xbox :) (Sony did let Linux, but didn't give it access to all the hardware could provide).
(And yes, that's facetious, but it does show all companies protect their own interests).
I think you're right that Nintendo has evolved, to some degree, and the reasoning behind it. Personally, I hope Apple does the same.

Interesting that while Apple claims "duplicate functionality" will confuse users in terms of Google Voice, Google (goes out of their way to) points out that Google Earth duplicates maps of Maps app, and Google Mobile duplicates search of Safari.
Well played...

@Rene
Again, faulty analogies. XBMC was not created by a licensed developer, so Microsoft neither supported nor blocked it. SONY did not "let" Linux onto the PS2, they specifically released a version of Linux for the PS2, primarily to get around certain European accounting procedures.

@SheiknetChris:
Iphone feedback site? You are joking right?
Apple is only motivated by embarrassment in the press. As long as iPhones sell well, nothing else makes any difference.
How long did Copy Paste take?
How long did MMS take?
These were the top two suggestions at the feedback site since the first iPhone was introduced. Over Three years.
So click that submit button all you want, but I guarantee noise made on sites like this gets bucked up to the mainstream press much faster than all those clicks which go direct to /dev/nul.

@Rene:

Apple should just say “it’s an appliance, you got what we want you to get” and not bother with the sophistry

And people would have accepted that.
But then they opened the App store.
Chickens, horses and cats have all left their respective containers, probably on the same departed train.

@Dev - We have different recollections and understandings of consoles. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony all kill stuff like XBMC, homebrew, etc. whenever they can and lock down their systems as tightly as possible. My argument is that they're closed platforms -- you can't just do anything you want with them, and Apple seems to be taking that route with the iPhone.
PS3 had Linux as well. Sony just killed it with the PS3 slim. And even when the PS3 had Linux, it couldn't access the full hardware (graphics were crippled).

@Rene -- you are missing the point.
In a discussion about how (Apple|Microsoft|Nintendo) treats licensed developers, XBMC is totally irrelevant, because it is not produced by anybody working with a platform license. In iPhone terms, it is a Cydia app.
As for Linux on the PS3, you are simply misinformed. SONY did not kill anything. With the PS3 slim, SONY stopped releasing their OWN FIRST PARTY DISTRIBUTION of Linux, but there are still 3 other distributions out there that work just fine. For SONY to do what Apple has done, they would have to lock down their new hardware so those distributions so not work, either.

@Rene
Re: Linux on the PS3 -- I may be the one misinformed, or at least overly optimistic. I had ready from people who anticipate being able to put Ubuntu/Fedora on the slim PS3, but believe right now they cannot.

so the iphone is a console, with restrictive policies on what will run on it?
maybe apple could turn that into an ad campaign. "there's no app for that. [because we're worried that you might discover something that works better on another platform]"

I thought Sony eliminated the "Install other OS" option in Settings (which my original PS3 had). Maybe a boot CD or other method still works?
I don't think I'm missing the point, just looking at a different angle: Xbox restricts things which would adversely affect their business, like letting someone legitimately offer XBMC. So, XBMC is "jailbreak" like GV Mobile is -- because it's not allowed to be otherwise.

There are tons of legal issues involved with officially allowing XBMC on the Xbox. This is a very bad example. Not allowing homebrew is also a bad example because they are just that HOMEbrew.

I can't believe Apple is just flat out lying in this response. They aren't sure if it uses VoIP. Come on, they have to be kidding. They also make it sound like the little green phone icon is rerouted to GV and hijacks the original Phone App including VM. What an out right lie.
Blocking GV is going to drive people to Android faster then just allowing GV on the iPhone.
Apple really does need to look and Nintindos history.

Just because you can block apps and just because other companies did so in the past doesn't mean you should. Comparing bad behavior and then saying "you see they do it too" doesn't legitimize the action.