Audio/Video, Business

Much Ado About Google Voice


Wow, what a difference a point of view makes. I have been pouring over the various articles on the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] investigation into Apple, AT&T and Google; some are saying Apple/AT&T are evil and it is good that the FCC is fighting the good fight while others are saying that the FCC is wrong in what they are doing.

Regardless of the side they take there is one commonality between them; the FCC investigation is bad for Apple and AT&T. The thing I wonder if this might not be playing right into Apple and Google?s hands.
Grab your tin foil hat and listen to this?

As I have explained in a recent article Apple and Google are being investigated for violations of Section 8 of the Clayton Anti Trust Act of 1914 [ incorrectly said Sherman in my last article]. On the surface the reason for the investigation are the Shared Directors between Google and Apple. Normally having shared directors is not a problem; it becomes one when the two companies have competing products that equal more than 2% of their sales. Apple and Google compete in the smart phone arena. Not in hardware per se but they both have a smart phone OS. The iPhone is more than 2% of Apple?s sales.  

So how do you protect yourself from this type of investigation? Well you can do this in two ways; one is to claim you do not attend any board meetings that cover the competing products the second is more aggressive and underhanded. The first defense sounds good on the surface but falls by the wayside when you realize that board members talk quite a bit about things going on. To say that no one would include you in those talks it a stretch.

Apple and Google would appear to have chosen both.  The shared directors are; Eric E. Schmidt, chief executive of Google, and Arthur Levinson.  Schmidt claims that he does not attend board meetings when mobile phones are discussed, yet somehow Google Applications seem to get a fast track to approval including the inclusion of YouTube, Google Maps, and Google search [as the primary search engine for mobile Safari]. Next we saw Google Earth, then Mobile Google [which featured a voice controlled search function]. Things seemed good indeed for the two companies.  

Now that the investigation seems to gaining momentum we see a rash of odd Apple moves. They disapproved Google Latitude, saying it would confuse people into thinking it was Google Maps.  Then they kicked all apps that tied into Google Voice, and are trying to make the developers pay for the refunds out of pocket.  You really have to ask WTF?

To quote Shakespeare ?The lady doth protest too much, methinks? or more accurately Apple doth protest too much, methinks.  But, just like a late night pitch man selling a revolutionary type of hammer, there is more.

Google is now bad mouthing Apple, it seems like the two are in a major spat? It seems like,? [pauses and scratches chin]. Something does not add up here; at least not until you add back in the FTC/DoJ investigation. Now the numbers start to become clear. Still we are missing something; thankfully the FCC provided it for us.
They are looking into the reasons for the disapproval of the Google Voice Apps beyond the claim of them duplicating existing features of the phone.  After all , there are [as of this morning] 51 pages of applications that duplicate the camera functions of the phone, 110 pages of music apps many of which stream music [duplicating the function of the iPod feature], well you get the idea.  Is Apple at work killing these off as you read this? No they are not, instead they attack Google.  They play off of the dislike of AT&T by allowing the rumor that AT&T is to blame to gain momentum. This brings the FCC into the house. The FCC investigates; finds that AT&T had nothing to do with it, orders Apple to allow the Apps. And everyone is happy and looking golden. Apple does not lose a cent since they are refusing to refund the money and forcing the Developers to do it instead, the developers are not going to allow that so everything stays in limbo until the FCC orders the Apps re-approved. AT&T gets to continue to claim they are not abusing their position as exclusive carrier, and Google/Apple get to look like they are not working together. 

To top things off Eric Schmidt has resigned from the Apple Board [a move everyone saw coming] so things would see all good right?

All this might sound farfetched but remember Apple is brilliant at marketing and strategy; moves like this do not come out of the blue, it was designed to get the press in a frenzy and it has worked. I would keep an eye on the situation and watch as the dust settles into neat little piles, piles that Apple planed on in the first place.