The recent news that the Google Voice iPhone application has been blocked from the iTunes App Store has created quite the stir.
Readers are somewhat correct to suggest that this move is more likely driven by AT&T than by Apple itself. However, keep in mind that Google Voice aims to insulate the user experience from the underlying phone. While the iPhone is much more than a phone, if Google is successful in owning the phone-related experience on the iPhone, Apple loses a core value proposition of the device. This is why I don’t buy the fact that AT&T is wholly to blame for the Apple decision. I can’t understand how Apple doesn’t have the bargaining position versus AT&T to act on behalf of Apple customers. Apple does. This decision helps protect AT&T’s and Apple’s value proposition to users. Apple acted out of self interest. I can’t blame them since Apple is not a charity. But Apple users, and others, should take note and adjust their purchase behavior and legal oversight accordingly, if at all.
Apple pulled Google Voice-enabled applications from the App Store because they “duplicate features that come with the iPhone”. The fact that Apple can limit the types of applications available to iPod/iPhone users on the basis of duplicate features that Apple provides or will provide in the future, GPS navigation an example of the latter, is mind boggling. Can you imagine Microsoft not allowing Firefox, Opera or Safari on Windows computers citing the fact that these products duplicate features that come with Windows? Say what you will about Microsoft’s competitive practices, but excluding an application on the basis of providing a similar capability seems awkward in the software industry where there are 42 different ways of achieving anything.
The fact that Apple owns the platform gives it a leg up on any third party applications that may be available before or after Apple decides to add similar functionality. If this isn’t enough to win versus the third party application, then the Apple product/feature deserves to lose out to the third party application.
To be fair, I find it equally surprising that the RIM BlackBerry App World doesn’t include applications such as Google Maps for Blackberry. Google Maps is much easier to use than RIM’s BlackBerry Maps. But since I can get the application directly from m.google.com and there are no limitations on what I can install on my BlackBerry, I don’t much care about the absence of Google Maps from BlackBerry App World. Since there is only one legal way to install applications to the iPod/iPhone, it really does matter when Apple restricts the applications a user is able to download and use.
Where is the government oversight of Apple’s App Store and iPod/iPhone application development practices? I care far less about IE integration with Windows than what applications I can run on my phone. My BlackBerry phone has quickly becoming the device I can’t live without; my laptop is well behind my Tivo/PVR.
PS: I don’t own an Apple product, but my wife loves her MBP and iPod Touch, both of which I play with from time to time.
Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues
PPS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”