If you haven’t heard, Apple rejected Google’s official Google Voice application several weeks ago (article from this week). However, I (at least) didn’t hear the news until recently, when it became known that Apple also began pulling other Google Voice apps from its iPhone/iPod Touch App Store. TechCrunch’s sources say that AT&T was behind the bans, and I’ll believe it.
Now, I’m not an Apple fanboy, but I’ve been considering getting an iPod Touch lately. One of my roommates here at Emerson’s summer program (yes I know I need to blog about that too; soon, I promise) has one, and he’s graciously let me use it occasionally. It’s been the perfect opportunity to figure out if I really want one, and try it out with some of my normal online activities. I do want one, though I’ll wait until the new version comes out, supposedly in September, with (I hear) a microphone and maybe even a camera.
But back to Google Voice.
One good reason to get an iPod Touch would be a mobile interface to Google Voice that uses Wi-Fi instead of cell phone minutes (for checking voicemail) or text messages. Cost-saving: Check. But the mobile interface for Voice is pretty sparse, so an app would be awesome.
My plans were put in jeopardy when I got wind of the news that Apple had begun pulling apps that worked with the service from the App Store. I checked with my roommate’s Touch and confirmed that they no longer appeared. For a while, I considered just skipping it. I was angered by Apple’s ridiculous actions, and annoyed that my target device—the iPod Touch—could have its functionality limited by a company that didn’t have anything to do with it. The iPhone and Touch might use the same operating system and App Store, but just because AT&T doesn’t want an app on the iPhone doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to run it on my iPod.
Today comes news that the FCC sent letters to Apple, AT&T, and Google, beginning an investigation into this high-profile rejection. See, the FCC has a policy agenda here, one that was probably catalyzed by Google’s letter to them two years ago. And in June, the FCC confirmed that it would be starting a review of exclusive contracts between handset manufacturers and cellular carriers.
The letters sent today are probably intended to use this heavily reported situation as an example, and to set a precedent. I hope that this investigation will find fault with the way Apple and AT&T conduct their business together, and will result in the FCC‘s restricting the kinds of apps that can be rejected, barring AT&T’s involvement in the application approval process, and possibly even result in a completely open App Store (in the long term) or an unlocked iPhone (also in the long term, though the exclusive contract between AT&T and Apple ends soon enough).
Google went to bat for all of us consumers two years ago with that letter. Maybe it will turn out that they’ve inadvertently done so again, just by letting Apple do what it wants with the App Store. My fingers and toes are totally crossed on this one; I want an App Store that’s more along the lines of the Android Marketplace or a Linux package manager.
Who’s with me?