Apple pays the price for iPhone's success

Robert Clark
10 Aug 2009

Apple is starting to pay the price of success with the iPhone.

It has won plaudits and big bucks for creating both an irresistible device and a popular sales platform. Together the iPhone and the App Store comprise the mobile data "ecosystem" that has eluded operators for the past decade.

Inevitably the App Store has become too important a platform for commerce for regulators to ignore. Apple's self-interested, arbitrary and opaque administration style has only encouraged official scrutiny.

All this came to the boil when Apple blocked the Google Voice app from the App Store, six weeks after Google had filed it. Apple also a removed a number of other third-party VoIP apps that it had previously approved.

The move has sparked heated discussion among developers and in the blogosphere. Many see the invisible hand of Apple's US iPhone partner AT&T, although some also point out that AT&T seems comfortable with Google Voice on BlackBerry phones connected to its network.

Neither Apple nor the equally-secretive Google has contributed to the discussion. AT&T issued a statement asserting that it "does not manage or approve applications for the App Store."

But all three are going to have to talk now. The FCC has begun an investigation, asking Apple why it rejected the app, whether it consulted with AT&T and just exactly what was the difference between Google Voice and other VoIP applications in the App Store?

Responses are effectively on the public record, so we should learn a lot from this inquiry. Whichever way you look at it, it's a big deal for the telecom industry, colliding the two hot-button issues of VoIP substitution and access to the App Store.

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