Google: Yes, Apple Lied to the FCC

When the Federal Communications Commission opened an inquiry into Apple's rejection of the Google Voice application from its iPhone Apps Store, the agency demanded answers from three companies: Apple, AT&T, and Google. A few weeks back, the responses from Apple and AT&T went public. Apple, apparently, had lied to the FCC, denying that it had ever rejected Google Voice despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

AT&T, meanwhile, told the FCC that it had nothing to do with Apple's app approval process. It was the second public statement AT&T had made to that effect, and it came in the wake of widespread suspicion—much from trade and traditional press, astonishingly—that AT&T simply must be at fault here, despite its denials. (Apple can do no wrong in the eyes of many, especially in the press.)

And now, weeks later, the FCC has issued Google's response to its question. And Google is adamant that Apple rejected Google Voice. In other words, Google is saying, yes, Apple did lie to the FCC. And again and again, variations of the word "reject" appear in Google's official legal response to the question, implicating Apple generally and its senior executives specifically.

"Apple's representatives informed Google that the Google Voice application was rejected because Apple believed the application duplicated the core dialer functionality of the iPhone," the Google response reads. "The Apple representative indicated that the company did not want applications that could potentially replace such functionality .... \[Apple Senior Vice President Phil\] Schiller informed \[Google\] that Apple was rejecting the Google Voice application."

The Google response also reveals that Apple rejected another Google app for the iPhone, Google Latitude, and for similar reasons. "Apple representatives indicated that the company did not want applications that could potentially replace \[iPhone\] functionality," the response reads. Google notes that Latitude provided "new features not present on the preloaded maps application," hinting that this was the real reason Apple rejected that app. Google also notes that other Google and third-party apps on the iPhone duplicate built-in iPhone functionality, or improve on preloaded app functionality. So it's unclear why Apple approves some apps and rejects others.

Google also exonerates AT&T, though I'm sure Apple's most fanatical fans still refuse to believe that Apple was at fault here. When asked what communication AT&T had with Google over the rejected apps, Google answered "none." However, Google had numerous communications with Apple over the Google Voice rejections, and it notes a "series of in-person meetings, phone calls, and emails" over a period of three weeks in July. It's hard to believe the word "reject" didn't come up during these talks, since that was the reason for the discussions.

But Google's conversations with Apple over app rejections dates back much further than that and involved senior executives from both companies. Google documented discussions about the Latitude rejection from March and April 2009. Phil Schiller informed a Google executive that Apple was rejecting Latitude on April 10, in person. And on July 7, Mr. Schiller informed Google over the phone that Apple was rejecting Google Voice.

According to Google, it had fought the publication of the full response because it included information about "sensitive commercial conversations" between the two companies. But after a number of Freedom of Information Act requests appeared, Google abandoned those efforts and the FCC published the full response. "We continue to work with Apple and others to bring users the best mobile Google experience possible," a Google blog post about the publication reads.

Google also provides the FCC with an interesting glimpse into the differences between its own mobile apps store, the Android Market, and Apple's far more closed environment. "The Android Market is an open distribution channel for developers," Google notes. "There is no pre-approval process conducted by Google or any third-party .... \[We\] do not screen or reject applications on the basis of content or functionality .... \[Also,\] the Android Market is not the exclusive method for distributing Android applications."

Google's detailed response is as clear as it is damning to Apple, especially when taken in context with the responses from Apple and AT&T. Apple did reject Google Voice. AT&T had nothing to do with that decision. And Apple's statements about not rejecting Google Voice are almost certainly false.

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