Friday, September 18, 2009

Our complete letter to the FCC regarding Google Voice for iPhone

Back in July, the FCC sent letters to Apple, AT&T, and Google asking about the rejection of the Google Voice for iPhone app.

When we submitted our letter on August 21, we asked the FCC to redact certain portions that involved sensitive commercial conversations between two companies -- namely, a description of e-mails, telephone conversations, and in-person meetings between executives at Google and Apple.

Shortly afterward, several individuals and organizations submitted Freedom of Information Act requests with the FCC seeking access to this information. While we could have asked the FCC to oppose those requests, in light of Apple's decision to make its own letter fully public and in the interest of transparency, we decided to drop our request for confidentiality. Today the FCC posted the full content of our letter to their website (PDF).

We continue to work with Apple and others to bring users the best mobile Google experience possible.


owen660 said...

the hell with Apple. the closed system will ultimately fall to the open.

Iroh said...

I think that FCC must force apple to let other installers work in iphone, in that way it'd be real democracy and right to choose.

owen660 said...

i'm not sure if i agree with a govt agency forcing the "plays-well-with-others" thing...i'd be more inclined to let the market decide what wins and what fails based on customer satisfaction. of course, i do hate the tel-cos, so maybe intervention *is* needed :)

jose said...

apple has no mandate to install the app which does encroach on its core iphone technology. this denial does not limit competition in any way. Apple or any company have no mandate to obsolete their own business.

if IP or google voice based calls over public free networks becomes the standard, then apple will be left out or be way behind. Google could easily partner with their Android phone makers to offer a compelling alternative to the iphone that brings free calls to mobile devices. thats competition and choice apple would have no desire to face.

Robert Chase said...
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Robert Chase said...

Many of the iphone's core features are provided via Google provided software and servers. If Google did not hold itself up to such high standards they could just stop the support for the iphone and upgrade their servers with a new and incompatible API. Apple and AT&T would find it difficult to market devices with reduced functionality.

It's ironic that AT&T and Apple profit from Google's software and services and then turn around and bite the hand that feeds them.

desensitized said...

So far this appears to be a case of 'he said, he said' from both parties so without tape of the converstation I am no more apt to belive Google than Apple.

Considering a Google officer sat on Apple's board while quitely developing competing products and did not at some point recuse himself while taking copious amounts of free gear as compensation, I'd question almost 'all' of Google's motives in this situation.

And finally I'd agree with some of the others, there is no legal mandate that Apple open it's platform to this type of 'competition'. The cell phone/smart phone market is overflowing with options and there is no legal basis for Apple to allow competitors into it's space because they can't provide a product anyone wants.

AVST said...
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Fernando said...

Does anyone know why the Skype app is okay but Google Voice is not?

Kevin J. said...

Bottom line is that Apple should not have ANY say on what applications I install on a phone that I OWN. I love Apple, but this is a bunch of $h1t! Open is the way to go. KEEP IT UP GOOGLE!!

Steven said...

In the end, however, we must realize that however useful or "sexy" Apple's products are, they are still a company who's primary goal is to market and gain monetary value. In this perspective, it is easy to see why Apple would decline such applications.

To the end-user's perspective (and much of the user-base of the iPhone), the rejection of Google's applications make so sense at all. Apple, in my view, has hurt themselves by doing this.

ersouza said...

@Fernando, to begin with, Skype and Google Voice aren't the same thing. Naturally, they would be evaluated differently in any approval process, as a result.

owen660 said...

@desensitized i might agree with you if it weren't for the histories and general philosophy of each company.

jamesearlywine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jamesearlywine said...

I would believe in letting the market decide, except apple has taken some of the best interface gestures and patented them so that no other phone can attempt to do something similar.. things as simple as scrolling by flicking your finger.. that's insane.. that limits the market terribly.. that's like me patenting a ball, or a wheel. heck, while they were at it, why didn't they just patent the whole multitouch thing altogether? I can't believe the patent office has let this happen. maybe next apple can patent voice recognition software that recognizes the letters "o" and "t". :P

then we can all pretend that there is an open market for innovations in voice-recognition software, when no company can feasibly compete without being able to recognize the sounds of the letters "o" and "t".

given this blockage of innovation, we can't expect the competitive market to produce comparable innovations.. so now I think we do need to look at forcing "plays well with others" .. since everyone else is limited from making similar devices.

Jon said...

apple was a movement for us

that movement is dead.

What happened Steve? Or was it all just a lie? probably.

Fernando said...

@ersouza I realize they are different apps, but I am wondering why Skype for iPhone which offers some of the same features (VOIP calling, voice mail, etc) has been approved by Apple.

The only reason I can see is how they claim it "replaces core iPhone functionality". If Google Voice somehow overrides your access to the iPhone's phone app and such I could understand their claim.

I think Google should go back and redesign the app to make sure it's integration on the iPhone is similar to other approved apps.

Jose said...

I beg to differ when I comes to comments that Apple doesnt need to open it platform to competing software. What do you think MS has been fighting all these years with its Antitrust issues. When does Apple speak for me about confusion using software. I think the consumer should be the one to decide whether it's confusing and then make their determination whether to keep the software or delete it.

h2d2 said...

I don't understand those who say that it's Apple's OS so they can decide what goes on there. So, to these individual I ask: What if Microsoft said you can't Install Adobe Photoshop because they already gave you MS Paint? Or if Apple extended their policy to the Mac OSX and said you can't install Entourage because it already has Apple Mail?

markpenrose said...

what would happen if Microsoft decided what application they would allow to run on Windows. Many application could be denied do to duplicate core functionality. Browser, Backup, Word Processor. No Flash Player you would use silverlight. No Acrobat you would use XPS.

E said...

I’ve been a (non-rabid) fan of Apple for many years, and despite its innovative spirit, I’ve often questioned its business practices and policies - often writing them off as being merely short-sighted, sometimes fanatical or paranoid, and perhaps (appropriately) protective of their technological innovations…

In other cases, I’ve merely picked my jaw off the floor and come to terms with their near delusional policy making (i.e., iTunes… can’t make purchases from another country’s iTunes store?!or... no tie-in with Grace Notes? WTF?). C’mon!

What I cannot and will not accept is the condescending way in which Apple padded their (albeit lame) excuses for not allowing (in this example) Google Latitude because… suddenly they’re in the business of protecting the poor consumers who might become “confused” over… a potential difference in interface? Oh. Great. Thanks for having my back, man. [flipping Apple the finger]

Meanwhile, there are hundreds of useless iFartWhatever apps cramming their store (which - in and of itself has become a fuckin’ circus of shit-quality - until recently anyway)... And don’t even get me started on the sub-par functionality in their innovative products. I mean, who else doesn’t think they should have packaged Voice Notes, a better quality camera, video recording, a longer lasting battery, or allowed tethering from iPhone v1.0 onward?

Apple, don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s for my own protection. If you have a reason, state it, but don’t use me as your human shield.

…And that, ladies and gents is THE major reason my phone is jailbroken. I truly believe Apple has lost sight of itself and has become the professionally snobbish asses that so many perceive them to be.

Shawn said...

Apple can continue to dissapprove google apps and wait till google revolutionizes the internet with it's Google Wave app and remixes the internet on a whole. Then what will they do?

Keep your stinky little system closed Apple. Your days are numbered, spoon feeding your customers upgrades one at a time and charging them an arm and a leg for it will soon be over, and besides the days for paying to talk on an cellphone will soon be over also...

fche said...

I wonder if "Iroh" recognizes the irony of advocating forcing a private company to do something against their own interest / free choice, all in order to accomplish someone else's "right to choose".

Everett said...

Apple's letter seemed entirely reasonable to me. Apple has created a huge amount of wealth for individual developers and reinvigorated software development. I'm excited about what they are doing and how rock solid their execution has been. The iphone has been a success because of their tight control. Google is a competitor using their own well-funded PR machine to make this an issue in the press. Google is not "the little guy" getting hurt.

steve cavrak said...

Thanks for posting the link to the Google letter to the FCC ... it helps round out the view of the process. I found it somewhat amusing that an original and four copies were submitted ... I wonder which of those we are viewing :) [The NSF and probably other agencies have fully paperless procedures ... ]

Jesse said...

Most people are so inclined to blame on other people, if they did not get what they want.

Not only I still couldn't see the declining wave of iPhone developers trying to make it big on the App Store, but also, I still couldn't see the big enthusiasm in developing for Android or any poster boy/girl stories from Android developers.

I also couldn't see any significant decline in iPhone sales.

Has everyone noticed any "big changes" from Microsoft way of doing things ? Consumers do decide.

But, unfortunately not everyone votes are considered.

I don't like the way Apple manages the App Store, but I also do not like it when Google is advocating web based apps, and trying to undermine native apps.

Kevin Whalen said...

Apple are a bunch of liars. You need to look no farther than how they have handled the app store. I gladly dropped the iPhone/AT&T for an Android MT3G 2 weeks ago, and am happy that I did!

Abe6421 said...

Why force users to install apps as Apple tell 'em. If you already own the unit you might as well do anything you like with it.

Zach said...

The solution is simple. Google and the Android community should release a free open-source port of Android for the iPhone and provide an easy-to-use installer intended for end users. Then the market for hardware and operating systems can be truly decoupled and the market can decide for itself which OS and apps to use.

Apple's core argument is completely unsound. The very point of 3rd party application is to provide new features, including those that may supplement or compete with features offered by default with the core OS. There is no logical basis why Apple must be the exclusive provider of telephony or mapping services on the iPhone. Indeed, a number of existing approved applications already supplement or replace Apple's own applications, such as GPS mapping services, instant or text messaging apps, calculators, and note/memo apps. As long as Google's applications do not disable functionality provided by Apple's core apps, it's lunacy to suggest that Apple be the exclusive provider of certain unspecified and ill-defined categories of applications.

Carterfone opened the handset market to competition 40 years ago. It's about time the mobile software market is opened the same way. As Apple clearly is against such a move, Google ought to use its weight and release its software anyway, without the app store and Apple's blessing. Consumers can decide for themselves whether they trust Google and wish to install its applications. Only a heavyweight like Google has enough leverage to take its products to the marketplace without or without Apple's cooperation.

lou said...

It's Apple's app store; they can sell whatever apps they want. Period.

If people want a Google interface, they can buy an Android phone. Period.

Tech Guru said...

Sony restricts what applications you can get on the PS2 and PS3. Microsoft restricts which applications you can get for the XBox. Nintendo restricts which applications you can get for the Wii. All of these are network computing devices that telecommunicate. Why can't Apple do the same with the iPhone?

More importantly, do we want the FCC to start regulating things like this? The next step would be to regulate video games (which would surely mean censoring them)?

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Raghav said...

Google, is it Apple's fault again in not making google earth and google apps applications available in app stores outside of US (i.e. Singapore etc) ? Does that need to be taken up with FCC's of other countries ?

Ross Allen said...

@h2d2, @Jose - Microsoft faced antitrust law suits because it controlled a vast majority of the market and was using its control to force out competition. Going by internet usage, over 90% of the market is still Windows machines. Apple computers make up a meager 5% of internet users. iPhones make up mere a 13% of the smart phone market and only 3.5% of the global mobile phone market.

Until Macs and iPhones make up a vast majority of the computer and phone markets, the government should not be involved in any way.

@Iroh - Allowing our government to force Apple to open its platform is the exact opposite of democracy! You already have the "right to choose". If you disagree with Apple's actions, don't buy its products.

Apple can be as Spartan as it wants about its app store. There is still ample competition in the marketplace that users can turn to if they are unhappy with Apple's terms of use or behavior with its own products.

Jesse said...

I agree with Ross Allen.

Consumers are just consumers. Most people are unable to see beyond the things that they use.

The way people are blaming Apple is pointless, if they're still using Apple's products and trying to gain something from it.

For those who doesn't use it, they can do whatever they want, and I'm glad that they could commit to an action.

Google has the resources to do "almost" anything in the world of software. So, this situation won't really hurt them. I'm not sure why don't they focus on their own products. Everyone will line up to buy a GPhone, instead of some "generic" phone with Android OS in it.

That's what consumers and developers need, a "high end" phone, with flexibility and amazing features, that will not only make them productive, but also makes them emotionally attached to it.

Actually, you can do whatever you want with your iPhone, but it's true that you can't do whatever you want in the App Store.

You can write your own software, and install it to your iPhone, nobody restricts you from doing it, so why don't you do that?

You could also get out from your iPhone contract, with a price.

As long as Apple restricts activity within their domain, and not trying to ruin the other domain. That's fair for me.

jragosta said...

"Considering a Google officer sat on Apple's board while quitely developing competing products and did not at some point recuse himself while taking copious amounts of free gear as compensation, I'd question almost 'all' of Google's motives in this situation."

Exactly. Google is playing games.

Google, you made a flat statement that Apple rejected the application. Where is your rejection letter? Or the email saying your application had been rejected? That seems to be mysteriously missing from your FCC letter.

If Apple rejected it, show us the rejection letter. Or quit the stupid games.

jragosta said...

"the hell with Apple. the closed system will ultimately fall to the open."

Right. That's why Windows is such a failure in the marketplace.

Graham E said...

Apple is a business. Apple's business model works. Apple sell iPhones, millions of them - even without all the functionality SOME people might like to see on board.

So, why should they allow ANY third party application that dilutes their brand or harms their agreement with their carrier partner? - just because a few geeks say: "It's not fair"??

Grow up.

And those of you hoping for the open network to kill Apple's 'closed' option, go to LA X and meet Jesus Christ off the next flight, and bring him home on a flying pig.

For a start, the world doesn't run on geek time, or to geek rules. The majority of users just want a phone that works. iPhone is that phone for an increasing number of users. If you think an assorted array of Android alternatives is a credible alternative, then you fundamentally fail to understand what iPhone has proved.

And that's the end of the lesson. All the information on how to do it right is out there and has been since the release of the first iMac G3 on August 15, 1998.

Google is fantastic. But Apple sells product. Apple makes lots of money selling product. Google does not sell product on anything like the same level. Google needs to diversify. Google has allied itself, quite naturally, to the open network. But the open network neither makes money nor sells product.

Google has the option to release its Google Voice app to the open network. Google's only reason for offering it to iPhone users is to dilute Apple's and AT&T's income. Why should Apple help them do that?

These are the realities. Everything else is bitching and crying in your beer. I find it ironic that generally liberal people in a country such as the USA should be proposing Federal intervention in a situation like this, just because Apple is successful. It's backward thinking.

Apple is bucking every trend in every sector in which it operates. That may be as a result of greed in some people's books, but it works. Compare the stock price of Apple and Microsoft over the past ten years. The company with more than 90% of the computer operating system market has seen a drop in value, whilst Apple has seen over a 2,782% rise.

And while you're all arguing over this silly little matter, China is burning oil 24/7 to eat your lunch.

Robert Chase said...

@Graham E
Geeks write the software that you use on a daily basis. They also created and maintain the networks that you use to gain access to the internet. Geeks are the people who simplified computing down to a level where you could play along too. You should be nice to people who have changed the world!

Google has products as well and makes more money than Apple without resorting to sleazy business practices.

TimChase said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TimChase said...

jose wrote, "apple has no mandate to install the app which does encroach on its core iphone technology. this denial does not limit competition in any way. Apple or any company have no mandate to obsolete their own business."

But according to Apple they haven't rejected the Google software. They merely have a long laundry list of reasons for doing so -- but continue to study it. And it would appear that every item on their laundry list is fabricated.

Please see:

The Truth: What's Really Going On With Apple, Google, AT&T And The FCC
by Michael Arrington on August 21, 2009

Knossos said...

In the end the FCC and or courts most likely side with Apple. But at a huge PR cost. Apple might win the case but lose their face.

They'll end up looking like the bad guys holding back innovation in the phone market.

Mike Fried said...

I think that the only appropriate response is a YouTube video demoing how cool the Google Voice for iPhone app is, with a point that it was rejected by Apple, and make that YouTube video prominently advertised.

This is a marketing issue - make Apple take some heat for this with their users. Obviously, you could turn off the Google Maps API key for the iPhone because it is non-competitive, and you could probably turn off the Google search engine from the iPhone Safari, and you could turn off the YouTube video from the iPhone, and GMail for the iPhone, and quickly reduce the device to just a phone... but that would likely backfire with iPhone users, and suddenly we would be scrambling to replace Google Maps with Bing Maps, Google Search with Bing, and YouTube... Well, Hulu or Facebook Video, or something else made by Apple. GMail is better than Hotmail (which only offers POP3, etc) but retailiation against users just makes it a war and places Google on the losing side.

So instead of retaliation, go for putting up messages in the Google services directing the attention of the iPhone users to the rejection of better features from Google. Put it at the top of every iPhone Google search. Make a video, and put it at the top of every iPhone Video search. Send an email to all iPhone GMail users.

Make an App just to demand Google Voice for iPhone be approved, and direct end users iPhones to the app to demand that Google Voice for iPhone be approved through all of the Google services. Show the end users your hand.

Think of the advertisement potential: "This is Google Voice on your iPhone... when Apple finally approves it. Don't you wonder why you haven't been able to do this for the last 5 months? Maybe you should switch to Android. The world's first mobile platform with an app store open to everyone, not just those who Apple say are ok."

Ivan said...

You know what the funny part is?

I seriously doubt that 95% of Apple users will be aware that Google Voice has been rejected.

I mean, didn't the original iPhone have a video recording function app that Apple banned, only to see it added in the second model a year after? Didn't hear too many people complain about that.

At this point, most people DON'T CARE. They're spoon-fed by Apple, and they love it because it's nice and shiny.

Apple can lock out all the apps they feel like. I don't care. I'm not getting one. I'm not going to butt heads with Apple -- I have better things to do... Like tether my phone for emergency Internet / email access. Or get apps from anywhere. Or run 2+ apps at the same time. =)

Ann Droid said...

I just don't understand how and why people would still keep buying iphones and ipods after the way this company keep treating its best paying customers.
It's not even an issue whether or not the iphone is an open platform or not. once you buy it apple should not have any say of what you do with it.
can you imagine ge selling refrigerator and tells you not to put orange juice in it?
or if we want an analogy to the att deal...dont put florida oj there, only tropicana?
but people keep paying so much money getting into horrible contracts and software-jail yet smiling.

freaking A M A Z I N G !!!!


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flarp said...

This bears some similarities to the Microsoft anti-trust issues in the 90's. Imagine if Microsoft had not only bundled IE with Windows but prohibited the installation of Netscape at all because it "duplicated the functionality" of something Microsoft was already doing and could be "confusing to the user". There wouldn't have even been any debate on the issue if that was the case. That is exactly what Apple is doing now with the iPhone and Google Voice.

antilife said...

I would like to see all products (including Google's) free to run on all platforms (including the iPhone). That said, I do not believe the law should intervene in such matters - the economics of a free market should settle it, let Google offer their services to Nokia and pressure Apple out of the market if need be.

Further, Apple is not preventing users from running Google applications on their iPhones. Apple is refusing to distribute Google's applications by means of its app store. That is all. This is not illegal and should not be regulated, it's up to Apple to decide the policies of their app store; if we as consumers do not like those policies, we should go elsewhere.

Further again, Google is not one to take the moral high-ground. They have imposed similar restrictions upon modders of Android.

massage lover said...

History repeats itself and we have to learn from the mistakes already make so that we don't make the same mistakes again. ... Come on Apple get with it

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