Apple Says No To Google Voice

Although the Yahoo-Microsoft deal is sure to steal most tech headlines of the day, there's also a little news involving the other two tech giants: Apple and Google. Apple has decided not to allow any applications for its iPhone involving Google Voice, software which provides the ability to receive and place cheap, even international, phone calls. This thickens the plot further given the competition Google will have on its hands going forward.

Apple's rationale for banning the Google Voice application is obvious: its iPhone already has a service for phone calls, exclusively provided by AT&T. Still, many users are angered by Apple treating its iPhone applications store like a dictatorship. Just because iPhone users can already use AT&T, they'd prefer not to be forced to do so.

The Financial Times provides a bit of analysis:

Many technology enthusiasts suspect that the driver of the ban on Google Voice was AT&T, the carrier that currently enjoys the exclusive right to provide service to US iPhone owners. In a similar conflict, Apple allows Skype, the voice over internet protocol service, to work at WiFi hotspots but not over AT&T's main data connections.

While using Google Voice still eats up airtime minutes, the inexpensive international calls could cut into AT&T profits. "I think it's AT&T being concerned about consumers looking to manage their costs," said Forrester analyst Charles Golvin. Apple also blocked an app called VoiceCentral.

If Google Voice were only functional over WiFi like Skype, would Apple allow it? It's hard to imagine that they wouldn't, given they allow Skype. If Google really wants this software on the iPhone, redesigning the mobile version in this way could provide a strong argument for Apple allowing it.

The other potential explanation, however, is that Apple is beginning to view Google as the competition. It should. As cell phones running Google's Android operating system gain popularity and challenge the iPhone platform, we may see Apple to continue to slowly back away from its cozy relationship with Google. Google Voice could be the first domino to fall on the way to that inevitable outcome. If Apple does become the competition, rather than an ally, Google will find itself in a very different competitive landscape in the years to come, especially considering the new challenge posed by the Yahosoft partnership announced today.