Playing Hard Means Risking the Occasional Foul

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch published a post Friday, titled The Truth: What’s Really Going On With Apple, Google, AT&T And The FCC. It is—in my opinion—a fairly insightful piece, particularly regarding his analysis of Apple’s seemingly misleading wording behind their reasons for “not approving” the Google Voice app for inclusion in the App Store.

I do believe that Apple perceives a risk behind allowing this particular piece of software “hijack,” as it were, the iPhone user experience, particularly as the Google Voice service will likely become wildly popular amongst the demographic of folks who are attracted to products like iPhones. I must also note that Apple themselves pulled quite a similar customer “hijacking” trick on AT&T with the iPhone.

So if anyone knows the smell of this type of usurpation, it’s Apple. They’re also right to fear it.

I ultimately get exactly why Apple attempted to block it: to paraphrase the late father of a past girlfriend of mine, if you’re not pulling at least one foul per game, you’re just not playing hard enough.

It’s all a game of strategy, folks, and the stakes in the competition for slices of the burgeoning mobile Internet device market are pretty damned high.

Arrington does make one claim, however, that I just can’t get behind. He writes:

[Apple is] jealously guarding control of their users and trying to block Google and other third party developers at every turn from getting their superior applications in front those users.

The first half is spot-on, but the second half is very wrong—they are not fearful of developers offering better software than their apps. Apple doesn’t care, for example, about superior stock tracking, weather, or memo programs.

They _do_ care about Safari, Phone, Contacts, Calendar, Mail, Messages, and iPod, App Store, and iTunes applications: they are the signature apps of the core iPhone user experience.

If Google Voice takes over the dialer, a significant problem is introduced: people may likely start demanding that the phone experience is designed around the Google Voice service. In such a case, Apple will have lost control of the UX of this core component of the product, as they would then have to choose between two paths:

1. chase after the Google Voice UX requirements, OR
2. consciously choosing to ignore it, causing customers that want it evaluate switching to an Android phone.

Apple are specifically looking to control the core user experience of the device, but that’s what Apple does, and what’s more: that’s what we (largely) want them to do! Their passion for that sort of thing is directly attributable for the design excellence of their products.

In any case, the ref is on the field, and we’ll get a call on the game play. The only certainty here is that—whatever call the FCC ultimately makes—the outcome will be interesting.

My call: offensive holding.