And both AT&T and Apple should share the blame...
On Tuesday it was revealed that Apple had banned Google Voice
from the iPhone app store. The new service has the potential to be a game changer, allowing users, among other things, to send free SMS messages and make international calls at reduced rates. The obvious conclusion was that AT&T played a role in the ban, given that SMS revenues are a massive cash cow
with a limited life span
the carrier wants to protect at any cost. When we asked AT&T if it was their call, they told us to ask Apple, who is too cool to comment publicly. Neither should get a free pass, yet both probably will.
AT&T has shown they have the authority to cripple or ban applications that erode AT&T's bottom line. The Skype application for iPhone was released back in March with crippled 3G functionality to limit its impact on AT&T voice revenues. 3G functionality was also crippled on the Slingbox app
, and while AT&T blamed network congestion, the telco has been cooking up their own place-shifting solution
exclusive to iPhone and U-Verse users for some time.
More motive? The vast majority of executives at AT&T despise Google because the search giant represents their deepest fear: a future where companies like AT&T are just dumb pipes, over which content companies deliver services that soak up advertising revenue old school phone executives really do believe belongs to them
. The baby bells so despise Google, they pay gentlemen whose entire purpose is to smear the search giant
While the motive for AT&T is fairly obvious, not everybody seemed to think AT&T deserved the blame. Blogger Om Malik
has been arguing for several days that AT&T couldn't be responsible for the ban, because AT&T hadn't banned the Google Voice app via Blackberry. Of course that's only because AT&T doesn't have the technical ability to do so under the decentralized Blackberry app distribution platform. Otherwise they certainly would.
On Tuesday, blogger John Gruber cited a source at AT&T who confirmed AT&T was behind the decision
, but the debate still seems to be raging
over who exactly deserves the blame. Why precisely we can't blame both
AT&T and Apple isn't exactly clear. Apple's walled garden and schizophrenic application store approval process has been the bane of most developers for months, and AT&T has a long
track record of anti-competitive behavior that most of the bloggers covering this latest scuff up probably didn't even know existed
. Both Apple and AT&T conspired to prohibit competition and limit the open Internet in order to protect revenues
. While brand loyalists will proclaim such anti-competitive skulduggery is just good business, I'll go so far as to use the dreaded nerd N-word and call this what it is. While AT&T's 4chan block was just stupid
, the AT&T and Apple decision to block the Google Voice application is a rare, clear example of a network neutrality violation.
Even if you want to argue semantics and proclaim it's not technically a neutrality violation because the filtering isn't happening at a base network level good for you; it's still severely anti-competitive behavior. And we should be collectively wise enough to expect no different. As we've discussed all week in terms of Verizon's not so open app store
, a baby bell in charge of the chicken coop is going to net the same bloody results every time.