Apple’s squabble over Google’s user interface

The Blade has a recent entry on the Google Voice application for the iPhone. The FCC inquired about the rejection to all three companies involved: Apple, Google, and AT&T (which has an exclusivity arrangement with Apple for the iPhone in the US market). The interesting part here is the reaction from each company.

AT&T denies any involvement in the rejection of the application.

Apple claims they have not actually rejected the application, and is “still pondering at this time.” What is surprising–or not, if you read this blog on a regular basis–is the following quote from the letter:

The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail.

I gather that that’s almost the entire point of the Google Voice application. What I take away from this: If Apple can do this to Google, they can damn sure do it to any other iPhone developer–and in fact, in a couple of cases, they pretty much already have.

Ron Schenone (author of The Blade) certainly signs off with a telling question
or three:

When I first read this I wondered why the FCC even cared? Why did the FCC even ask the companies to comment? Doesn’t Apple have the right to accept or reject any application that runs on their iPhone?

In an ideal world, Apple would let anyone write any application they wanted to run on the iPhone without having to play a high-stakes game of “Mother, May I.” It’s entirely backwards to take hundreds of dollars from a customer, and then still claim some kind of ownership on the item being sold to that customer. If Apple still considers the iPhone theirs after it leaves the factory, there needs to be a warning label to that effect on each box.

I’d like to think that would do some good. In the end those warning labels may be scarcely more effective than the ones on cigarette cartons. But that is a whole ‘nother rant for a different day.