There is no question that Apple has raised the stakes by removing apps such as Google Voice. Apple and AT&T may be keeping competing apps away from the iPhone platform, but that doesn’t mean they are home free. The FCC has been watching Apple and at&t closely in the past few months, and it’s expected to step up its efforts to address some of the issues that have been raised by consumers in regards to Apple – at&t partnership. This issue goes beyond the relationship between Apple and Google. It’s about who’s in control and who should be in control of what goes on a handset.
There are two way to look at this issue. If you are a handset maker who has invested millions of dollars in your platform, you probably want to exert more control over what goes on you phones. In the case of Apple, Apple used to reject apps to keep the rogue ones away from the handsets. The same approach applied to inappropriate apps. But at some point Apple started rejecting apps instead of trying compete. So the playing field is not level for everybody when it comes to developing iPhone apps. There are lots of ways that Apple could have dealt appropriately with Google Voice and similar apps, but it decided to choose the easiest way out. You can blame at&t for what has happened, but at the end of the day, Apple is the one that pulled the trigger.
Another way to look at all this is from the consumer side. When you spend hundreds of dollars on a handset and wireless carriers, you should have some say as far as what apps go on your handset. If it weren’t for customers, Apple wouldn’t be where it is today, so it’s disappointing that Apple has decided to not listen to its customers on this issue. You can see a certain degree of arrogance here. For a company that has built its business around listening to people to develop innovative products, Apple has certainly failed its customers in the past few weeks. But Apple is not the only company that engages in such practices. Amazon, too, is in hot water over removing books from Kindle without the owners’ permission.
So who should be in control? It’s not that easy. As far as Google Voice is concerned, I firmly side with the iPhone owners. There are some instances that Apple has to protect its brand and overall iPhone experience, but Google Voice by no means is a threat in those areas. Apple has stood by its decision so far, and that’s disappointing. I still would give Apple more chances, but Apple is walking a tight line.
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