Apple today posted an interesting response to the FCC inquiry into their denial of the Google Voice application. In a nutshell, it isn’t AT&T that influenced Apple to deny Google Voice, though they do have a "no VoIP on AT&T’s network agreement" in place and have since the beginning.
The reason Apple gave for denying the app (or keep it in purgatory as they say) is that:
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.
Strangely, applications like Skype also do many of these things and frankly more. In fact, Skype’s dialer can easily be confused with the iPhone’s built-in version. It has its own voicemail and SMS as well. Also, GV Mobile, a Google Voice application, was embraced by Apple’s VP of Marketing, Phil Schiller and pushed through the Apple Store before it was unceremoniously kicked off months later. Kicking an application out of the App Store doesn’t sound like they are still considering opening up the store to the technology.
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.
This would seem somewhat hypocritical because Apple’s Addressbook application lets (and even encourages) users to sync their contacts with Google and Yahoo accounts. In fact, those very contacts are likely already on users Google accounts through the iPhone’s syncing with Addressbook.app and that syncing with Google.
What is Apple getting at here with this reasoning? Why all of the inconsistancies?
Something has fundamentally changed at Apple. Something rather big to go through all of this trouble.
I have a feeling this goes deeper than it seems and it may involve a future VoIP/Grand Central type product from Apple.
The response by Apple also sheds some light on the review process in general. Specifically:
There are more than 40 full-time trained reviewers, and at least two different reviewers study each application so that the review process is applied uniformly. Apple also established an App Store executive review board that determines procedures and sets policy for the review process, as well as reviews applications that are escalated to the board because they raise new or complex issues. The review board meets weekly and is comprised of senior management with responsibilities for the App Store. 95% of applications are approved within 14 days of being submitted. We receive about 8,500 new applications and updates every week, and roughly 20% of them are not approved as originally submitted. In little more than a year, we have reviewed more than 200,000 applications and updates.