The round of responses by Apple and AT&T to an FCC inquiry over carrier exclusivity and the rejection of Google Voice on iPhone makes one thing quite clear: mess with Apple's core, and you've got a problem, Houston.
That is, Apple doesn't want anything on iPhone that's going to divert attention from the "distinctive user experience" and make users believe they're doing anything other than enjoying Apple products. It's hard to imagine that type of response is going to prompt FCC to turn down the heat as it continues to probe Apple and AT&T.
"Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it," wrote Apple in a Friday response to the FCC. "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 interface for telephone calls, text messaging, and voicemail."
Apple cited VoIP programs (like Skype) that it does approve, implying that Google Voice isn't so much a VoIP program as something that changes the interface that Apple's brought to iPhone.
"Apple does not know if there is a VoIP element in the way the Google Voice application routes calls and messages," Apple wrote.
The FCC launched a probe over Apple's decision to not allow Google Voice in the App Store, also shining a spotlight on whether AT&T, for now the iPhone's exclusive U.S. carrier, pressured Apple in any way to make that kind of decision.
For its part, AT&T in its response Friday acknowledged an agreement with Apple to block the use of VoIP apps for iPhone on AT&T's cellular networks, but said it had "no role in any decision by Apple to not accept the Google Voice application for inclusion in the Apple App Store" and that AT&T looks "forward to learning more about Google Voice."
AT&T's VoIP agreement with Apple doesn't include VoIP applications that use Wi-Fi -- those are fine -- but according to AT&T, "the parties' concurrence on this provision was particularly important in light of the risks the parties assumed in bringing the iPhone to market."
"The parties' willingness and ability to assume the risk of their investments in the iPhone and of their pricing strategy were predicated, in significant part, on certain assumptions about the monthly service revenues that would be generated by iPhone users," reads AT&T's letter to the FCC. "In particular, both parties required assurances that the revenues from the AT&T voice plans available to iPhone customers would not be reduced by enabling VoIP calling functionality on the iPhone. Thus, AT&T and Apple agreed that Apple would not take affirmative steps to enable an iPhone to use AT&T's wireless service to make VoIP calls."
Maybe the pressure is getting to AT&T, however. Later on in the letter, AT&T writes it has plans to "take a fresh look at possibly authorizing VoIP capabilities on the iPhone for use on AT&T's 3G network."
Think Apple would loosen the way it exerts control over app acceptance and rejection and take a "fresh look"?
Raise your hand if you're holding your breath.