First it was Steve Jobs' health. Then it was the layoffs earlier this year. Now the Google Voice rejection. Apple's credibility is being questioned yet again.
Anyone who deals with Apple on a regular basis knows it is a company that gives information on its own terms. But now even the federal government is having problems getting a clear answer regarding Apple's rejection of the Google Voice application for the iPhone.
On July 28, Google announced that the calling and message service application had been rejected from Apple's App Store. Three days later, Google, Apple, and AT&T, the iPhone's exclusive carrier in the U.S., received inquiries from the Federal Communications Commission regarding the app's rejection. In its answer to the FCC, Apple said that the application was not rejected, but was still "under review." In Google's response--the most interesting parts redacted until Friday--it told the FCC that a series of conversations took place between Apple Senior Vice President of Marketing Phil Schiller and Google Senior Vice President of Engineering Alan Eustace during the month of July, including one on July 7, where Schiller told Eustace that Google Voice was being rejected for duplicating the phone dialing function of the iPhone.
The discrepancy between what Google said and what Apple said in their answers to the FCC, of course, leads to many more questions. In response, Apple released the following statement Friday:
"We do not agree with all of the statements made by Google in their FCC letter. Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application and we continue to discuss it with Google."
So basically we have a classic he said, she said situation between two companies known to (formerly?) enjoy a close relationship: Google says it was told the application was rejected, by one of the highest-ranking people at Apple. Apple says the app wasn't rejected. So Apple is either: a) insinuating that Eustace somehow misunderstood what Schiller said, or b) suggesting that Google is lying, or c) being picky about how it's parsing words.
Perhaps "rejected" doesn't mean the same thing to Apple as it does to everyone else. While that sounds kind of silly, quite frankly, it's not outside the realm of possibility of how Apple is thinking. Perhaps Apple is planning to formalize such a category of App Store approval status where applications are neither approved nor rejected. Other applications have languished for months, but their developers have been unclear on what has caused the delay.
It's not impossible, of course, that Google misunderstood, or is itself misleading the FCC, though it's unclear why that would be. Especially since at the point when Google initially said Google Voice was rejected by Apple, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was still sitting on Apple's board of directors. (He has since resigned.) But this is also not the first time there's been the perception that Apple has been less than forthcoming on important matters.
Who could forget the uproar over Jobs' physical appearance last summer and his top spokesperson's response that he was "suffering from a common bug"? It came out later that he was having serious medical problems that resulted in a liver transplant earlier this year.
In March, when rumors swirled that some sales employees got laid off, Apple representatives denied the reports. The people who lost their jobs later came forward to confirm the reports.
And just last week, observers of the company wondered if Jobs purposely misled The New York Times when he told them they did not put a camera in the iPod Touch because it didn't make sense for customers--speculation that heightened after a tear-down revealed space for a camera sensor in the updated design.
Apple has a lot of sway in several industries and makes products that people like. But customer confidence in your ability to be forthcoming is important, especially when it comes to making a successful sales pitch for, say, an iPod Touch sans camera, when there could be a new model with a camera coming soon that's just been delayed because of manufacturing problems.
But there's also the reality that a lot of customers just flat out don't care. Apple has a particularly loyal fan base, and to date the company's bottom line hasn't shown distaste for deception or misleading information.