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Apple: It's Not the Act, It's the Cover-Up

After the last 20 or 30 years in the U.S., you'd think that almost everyone had learned one lesson: people get caught in the cover-up. From Richard Nixon's crew to Bill Clinton, from Enron to Conrad Black's Hollinger International, what often trips a person or company isn't what was done so much as how it was covered up. But when push comes to shove, the people in charge panic. That's what seems to be happening at Apple right now, as its management denies rejecting the iPhone version of the Google Voice app.

That alone seems like a pretty bold statement, with Apple's response to a letter of inquiry by the FTC saying, instead, that it simply hadn't yet approved Google Voice because the app "appears to alter the iPhone's distinctive user experience" and that the company was still studying it. Some of the issues that Apple claims to have are so blatantly false that you have to wonder what lawyer signed off on this. In fact, Michael Arrington has an interesting summation of the letter's claims and what can be readily proven.

Arrington thinks that Apple will ultimately give in, let Google Voice on, and claim that the action is consistent with its answer to the FCC. But given the number of other fronts that regulators are looking at the company, I'm not sure that slipping out of the situation is going to be that easy. If this were the only issue, then perhaps. But it's coming up as the FTC examines tangled interests between Apple and Google -- and refuses to stop even after Eric Schmidt stepped down from the former's board.

The best way to express it, I think, is to phrase it this way: What would various regulators do if Microsoft insisted on approving every application that could run under Windows? Not providing an "approved" label, but literally making it virtually impossible to buy and load the products? There would be huge legal implications because of the control of a market and third party access to it. But Apple is making quick and enormous strides in the smartphone market. How much longer will regulators ignore its actions? And if they do take an increasingly greater interest, at what point does getting yourself out of trouble suddenly turn into charges of something far more serious ... and legally actionable?

Image via Flickr user Bergdorf Brunette, CC 2.0.

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