Apple Denies Rejecting Google Voice for iPhone

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In its redaction request, Google said that the discussion it had with Apple "constitutes commercial data 'which would customarily be guarded from competitors.' The redacted material relates to business and operations of Google, warranting protection from disclosure by under the Commission's Rule."

Caught in the Google Voice brouhaha were several small companies whose applications were yanked from the App Store by Apple in late July, including some that had been sold for months on the iPhone's only sanctioned online mart. Apple acknowledged the trio -- GVDialer, GV Mobile and VoiceCentral -- in its response today, saying that they fell under the same umbrella of concerns as Google Voice.

"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," said Apple. It cited Google Voice's SMS feature as a problem, and said it was also worried about how the application grabbed contacts from the iPhone. "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," Apple added.

Kevin Duerr, the chief executive of Durham, N.C.-based Riverturn, the developer of VoiceCentral, said last month that Apple claimed his company's software duplicated features of the iPhone, the same explanation Apple apparently has given Google. Frustrated at Apple's refusal to explain in more detail why it pulled VoiceCentral from the App Store, he raked Apple over the coals in a series of blog postings and interviews, including two with Computerworld.

Today, Duerr dismissed Apple's responses. "I don't [know] what they are claiming because their answers don't make sense," said Duerr in a blog post Friday night. "And, frankly, we are calling BS."

Apple said it was still "pondering" Google Voice and studying "its potential impact on the iPhone user experience." The company also confirmed AT&T's contention that Apple alone is responsible for Google Voice's uncertain status in the review process.

Both companies admitted that their contractual agreement forbids Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications from reaching the App Store unless AT&T agrees. "From time to time, AT&T has expressed concerns regarding network efficiency and potential network congestion associated with certain applications, and Apple takes such concerns into consideration," Apple said.

The popular Skype VoIP software, for example, has been accepted for the App Store, but that product, as well as others, has been crippled so that it works only through a Wi-Fi hotspot, not over AT&T's data network. Skype's use of Wi-Fi only prompted Free Press to urge the FCC to look into Apple's and AT&T's VoIP practices back in April.

AT&T seemed most concerned about revenue and network traffic issues in its reply to the FCC today. "Both parties required assurances that the revenues from the AT&T voice plans available to iPhone customers would not be reduced by enabling VoIP calling functionality on the iPhone," admitted the carrier. "AT&T's wireless service agreement prohibits subscribers from engaging in uses that cause extreme network capacity issues or interference with the network."

The letters to Apple, AT&T and Google are part of a wider-ranging inquiry by the FCC into such things as pricing and the exclusive arrangements between handset makers and mobile carriers.

This story, "Apple Denies Rejecting Google Voice for iPhone" was originally published by Computerworld.

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