AT&T: Your World Of Hurt Delivered

Last Updated Aug 4, 2009 9:48 AM EDT

AT&T was behind Apple's decision to pull the Google Voice app from the iTune store after all. This isn't conjecture -- there is a smoking gun, which is the following response by an Apple customer service rep, posted by Google Voice developer Sean Kovacs:

What a stupid move by AT&T; not only will this cause all kinds of regulatory problems for the carrier, but the move effectively throws customers into the arms of its principal rival, Verizon. No wonder Google is upset.

The ramifications of this are pretty stunning:

  • The FCC is likely to take fairly draconian action to ensure this doesn't happen again, perhaps forcing a decoupling of handset vendors and app stores; this would have a huge impact on Apple's future, given that apps are the iPhone's rocket fuel;
  • Verizon gets to smell like a rose, and if the FCC allows carriers to sell apps (which they should, although the agency may attach strings, like forcing carriers to make the apps transportable from one device or carrier to another) gives it a huge head start as it has already announced plans for a mega app store;
  • AT&T will lose its iPhone contract with Apple, which will cause it to run for the nearest, next hot device -- which could very well be an Android phone (perhaps with augmented reality features, which are thus far only available on Android operating systems);
  • Apple will be forced to publish and adhere to a transparent set of rules governing submissions and the review process for new apps.
And those are just the first things that comes to mind. This revelation is going to be shocking for many who, like myself, assumed that AT&T wouldn't or couldn't dictate these kind of terms to Apple; as Om Malik noted, AT&T's BlackBerry does have Google Voice -- but AT&T apparently sees how quickly the iPhone has been gobbling smartphone market share. In that context, only the iPhone matters. It may also not enjoy the kind of pull at Research in Motion as it does at Apple.
  • Michael Hickins

    Michael Hickins has written about technology and business for BNET, InformationWeek,, eWEEK -- where he was executive editor from 2007-2008 -- The Curator,, Multex Investor, Reuters, and Conde Nast's Hickins is the author of The Actual Adventures of Michael Missing, a collection of short stories published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991. He also published Blomqvist, a picaresque novel set in 11th century Europe, in 2006. Hickins remains passionately interested in the intersections of business, technology, politics and culture, and endures a life-long obsession with baseball. He is married with two children and lives in Manhattan.