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Apple blocks Google Voice apps. But whose idea was it?

by Brandon on July 28th, 2009

TechCrunch says, “Apple Is Growing Rotten To The Core.”  Apparently they’ve begun pulling or disabling applications that leverage Google Voice, and have blocked the official Google Voice app from the App Store.

Some, like TechCrunch, suggest that AT&T is behind this.  Others like Om Malik think AT&T has nothing to do with it, since they allow similar apps on Blackberry devices.

I’m not sure who to blame, and it really could be either.  AT&T surely doesn’t like the idea of you having access to unlimited SMS (that, via Google Voice and the iPhone’s push notification API, could work exactly like real SMS – where your friends can’t even tell the difference).  I bet the SMS fees they charge are just pure gravy.  I’m also not convinced by Om’s argument that the existence of Blackberry GV apps is sufficient for ruling out AT&T as the decision maker.

But let’s say Om is right and they don’t really care.  Why would Apple block Google Voice?  I can think of a few possibilities:

  1. Someone at Apple thinks AT&T cares, and doesn’t want to strain their relationship.
  2. Apple is afraid that Google might establish a beachhead on the iPhone and in the future use it to steal customers away to Android devices.
  3. Or maybe, just maybe… Apple has plans to offer Google Voice-like functionality in the future, and doesn’t want to have to compete on their own platform.

I have no idea if Apple is even capable of that, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me.  Apple is smart.  They know this is just delaying the inevitable and that eventually we’ll have seamless integration between normal PSTN voice service and VOIP service.  Or we’ll just have VOIP and nothing else.  If Apple doesn’t drive this, someone else will, whether it’s on their platform or another.

Update:  Apparently I’m not the only one thinking along these lines.

Update 2: Or maybe it wasn’t Apple’s call after all. John Gruber claims to have confirmation that AT&T was indeed behind this.

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