By John Gruber
Work at Atoms. Make the best shoes ever.
So, surprise surprise, Apple has rejected Google’s official Google Voice app, and has removed from the App Store several Google Voice-related apps that had previously been accepted. Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch, echoing many other critics of the decision, blames AT&T:
Of course, it’s not hard to guess who’s behind the restriction: our old friend AT&T. Google Voice scares the carriers. It allows users to send free SMS messages and get cheap long-distance over Google Voice’s lines. It also makes it trivial to switch to a new phone service, because everyone calls the Google Voice number anyway.
[Update 1:40 pm: Well, so much for my speculation. A reliable little birdie has informed me that it was indeed AT&T that objected to Google Voice apps for the iPhone. It’s that simple.]
[Update 22 Aug 2009: So much for being “that simple”. According to both Apple’s and AT&T’s response to an FCC inquiry, the decision was Apple’s alone.]
But does anyone really think AT&T pulls the strings in this relationship? Google Voice doesn’t just interfere with the carrier’s business model, it interferes with Apple’s iPhone business model. Not just AT&T but all iPhone carrier partners pay Apple a hefty subsidy for every iPhone sold, and that subsidy is based on assumptions about how much the average iPhone customer is going to pay in monthly service charges for voice, data, and SMS.
I can see why people are pissed that Apple has come out against Google Voice for iPhone, but I can’t see how anyone is surprised.
And, to play devil’s advocate for a moment, I’m not sure the decision is entirely unreasonable. Don’t think about it in terms of Apple’s relationship with its carrier partners, but instead think about it in terms of Apple’s competition with Google. Google Voice is a mobile phone service provided by the maker of one of the biggest competitors to the iPhone OS. What if Google Voice were instead Microsoft Voice? And what if Windows Mobile were as modern and competitive as Android? Would you be as surprised then that Apple is discouraging iPhone owners from using the service? Just saying.