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8/3/2009
12:09 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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AT&T: It's All Apple's Fault

Last Friday, the Federal Communications Commission sent letters to Apple, AT&T and Google seeking answers on the Google Voice application's removal from the iPhone Apps Store. AT&T has responded by saying that Apple is the one in control, not AT&T.

Last Friday, the Federal Communications Commission sent letters to Apple, AT&T and Google seeking answers on the Google Voice application's removal from the iPhone Apps Store. AT&T has responded by saying that Apple is the one in control, not AT&T.An AT&T spokeperson issued the following statement over the weekend, "AT&T does not manage or approve applications for the App Store. We have received the letter and will, of course, respond to it."

In other words, AT&T says it had nothing to do with it.

It may be true that AT&T has nothing to do with the approval process of applications, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility for AT&T to suggest to Apple that some apps are kosher and others aren't -- or be able to exert some other form of influence.

After all, AT&T said just several months ago that it couldn't allow the SlingPlayer application for iPhone to work via its 3G network. Instead, the app only works over Wi-Fi. That seems like "managing and approving" to me.

What's curious is that, on the surface, Apple really has nothing to gain or lose by pulling the application. I mean, it's AT&T's network that is being accessed/used by Google Voice for calls and messaging. Apple's bottom line or business isn't threatened at all -- unless the application's approval soured the relationship between AT&T and Apple.

The FCC wants the questions to be answered within a few weeks. Given that the answers need to go to the FCC, they should become public. It will be very interesting to see the in-depth questions from all three companies about this matter.

The list of questions that the FCC wan'ts AT&T to answer include:

  1. What role, if any, did AT&T play in Apple's consideration of the Google Voice and related applications? What role, if any, does AT&T play in consideration of iPhone applications generally? What roles are specified in the contractual provisions between Apple and AT&T (or in any non-contractual understanding between the companies) regarding the consideration of particular iPhone applications?
  2. Did Apple consult with AT&T in the process of deciding to reject the Google Voice application? If so, please describe any communications between AT&T and Apple or Google on this topic, including the parties involved and a summary of any meetings or discussions.
  3. Please explain AT&T's understanding of any differences between the Google Voice iPhone application and any Voice over Internet Protocol applications that are currently used on the AT&T network, either via the iPhone or via handsets other than the iPhone.
  4. To AT&T's knowledge, what other applications have been rejected for use on the iPhone? Which of these applications were designed to operate on AT&T's 3G network? What was AT&T's role in considering whether such applications would be approved or rejected?
  5. Please detail any conditions included in AT&T's agreements or contracts with Apple for the iPhone related to the certification of applications or any particular application's ability to use AT&T's 3G network.
  6. Are there any terms in AT&T's customer agreements that limit customer usage of certain third-party applications? If so, please indicate how consumers are informed of such limitations and whether such limitations are posted on the iTunes website as well. In general, what is AT&T's role in certifying applications on devices that run over AT&T's 3G network? What, if any, applications require AT&T's approval to be added to a device? Are there any differences between AT&T's treatment of the iPhone and other devices used on its 3G network?
  7. Please list the services/applications that AT&T provides for the iPhone, and whether there any similar, competing iPhone applications offered by other providers in Apple's App Store.
  8. Do any devices that operate on AT&T's network allow use of the Google Voice application? Do any devices that operate on AT&T's network allow use of other applications that have been rejected for the iPhone?
  9. Please explain whether, on AT&T's network, consumers' access to and usage of Google Voice is disabled on the iPhone but permitted on other handsets, including Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices.

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