Did Apple Just Lie to the FCC?

Apple and AT&T have officially responded to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) query about Apple's rejection of a Google Voice application on the iPhone. And contrary to weeks of widespread insinuations and accusations from the Apple-friendly press, AT&T has declared for a second time that it had absolutely nothing to do with the rejection. Apple, meanwhile, has issued a contradictory and damning statement to the FCC while explaining away the incident. Even considering Apple's hubris, this is a surprising move. Apple, you see, has apparently just lied to the FCC.

"Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it," the first fairly obvious lie in the Apple statement reads. As various bloggers noted over the weekend, the FCC isn't investigating whether Apple rejected the Google Voice application; it's investigating why Apple rejected it. A Google statement from July reads, "Apple did not approve the Google Voice application we submitted six weeks ago to the Apple App Store" That statement touched off the FCC investigation. In fact, the FCC's letter to Apple includes the following very specific question: "Why did Apple reject the Google Voice application for iPhone and remove related third-party applications from its App Store?"

There's more. Apple also makes sweeping claims that the Google Voice app "appears to alter the iPhone's distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone's core mobile telephone functionality." This is not the case at all. In fact, the Google Voice app works alongside the iPhone's core mobile telephone features and doesn't replace them. And, with credit again to the community of bloggers out there who cast light on Apple's lies all weekend, there are numerous iPhone dialer apps still being sold that do exactly the same thing. Put simply, Google Voice does indeed provide specific features for phone calling, SMS, and voice mail, but it does so without replacing the iPhone's built-in UIs for those functions.

Apple also claims that "The Google Voice application replaces Apple's Visual Voicemail ... \[thus\] disabling Apple's Visual Voicemail," and "replaces the iPhone's text messaging feature." Neither claim is true. As noted above, the Google Voice functionality is separate from the features offered in the iPhone UI and doesn't replace or disable them as Apple claims.

Of course, the FCC is most concerned with a collusion between Apple and AT&T and how this could factor into the agency's wider investigation into exclusive deals between device makers and wireless providers. Apple does admit that AT&T played no role in rejecting the Google Voice app and that the wireless provider plays no role whatsoever in the iPhone App Store. This means that it's Apple, and not AT&T, that has sole responsibility for determining which applications are allowed to be published to the iPhone App Store.

Meanwhile, Apple claims it could still allow Google Voice on the iPhone. "We are continuing to study the Google Voice application and its potential impact on the iPhone user experience."

That's nice. Hopefully, Apple understands that the rest of the world, especially certain regulatory agencies, continues to study its iPhone application review process as well. This company has avoided antitrust action for too long. The time to act is now.

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