No sooner do I tout Sean Kovac’s GV Mobile — a third-party app for Google Voice — than Apple yanks it, along with a similar one called VoiceCentral. In addition, the company has barred a Google Latitude app, and now the long-awaited official app for Google Voice has also been rejected.

It’s like the Prom Queen suddenly snubbing the Quarterback at the dance. She won’t talk to him, won’t even look at him — or his friends. It’s kind of weird, and feels a bit sudden.

So what the heck is going on between those two?


A Love/Hate Triangle
On the heels of John Walton’s excellent post on the matter, The New York Times ran an article titled “Even Google Is Blocked With Apps for iPhone.” According to the NYT, Apple says it pulled the GV apps because they were redundant with current iPhone features, but analysts cited in the story disagree. They think there’s a third player responsible for the drama: AT&T.

The theory is that Apple was responding to its carrier’s concerns, as AT&T was feeling threatened by the GV service (which is now out of beta) and worrying about revenue losses. 

“… contractually, Apple has agreed to keep apps that would hurt AT&T’s business out of the App Store,” says Gene Munster, a senior research analyst at investment firm Piper Jaffray. AT&T, which (predictably) had no comment, certainly seems to be all-consumed with the thought of revenue losses. (The carrier has even started charging fees to customers who dare to actually benefit from discounts.)

Meanwhile in Google-land, the developers went to work retooling the Google Latitude app into a web app, per Apple's request. The official line was that, as an onboard app, GL — which allows users to share location info with friends —  would cause confusion with Maps, iPhone’s built-in application. Since this at least allowed some way for iPhone users to access GL, Google complied.

So the two popular kids still seem to be at the dance together, at least for now.


The Drama of "As the Cell Turns"
It's an uncomfortable alliance, to be sure. Though Google’s chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, is on Apple’s board, and the two companies cooperate on certain projects, the fact remains that they are still competitors.

Google’s Android OS may have yet to be widely adopted, but the potential is massive. In fact, as an open-source juggernaut, it could one day do serious battle with the iPhone. (I know one PhoneDog editor who is anxiously waiting for this day to arrive.)

Sometimes, covering the cellular industry feels like watching a daytime drama. There are uneasy partnerships, with affiliations between friends who are also foes, and strategic plotting by powerful empires. There are also separate storylines, like the long-lost brother whose arrival could change everything (Pre?), and the wacky goings-on of the illegitimate kid (Storm?) of the established patron of the family (BlackBerry?).

When it comes to this episode of the Google/Apple soap opera, it looks like it’s ending on a cliff hanger: How long can the good will between the two companies continue? Will Android someday knock the iPhone off its pedestal? For this to happen, will an Android handset (perhaps the Hero) need to sit on AT&T shelves to seduce iPhone customers, as PD editor John Walton suggests? And would AT&T — or Apple — ever allow that?

Stay tuned as the story unfolds.

UPDATE:
Though the GV app by Sean Kovacs has been pulled out of Apple’s App Store, the developer will be creating versions for the Palm Pre and other iPhone competitors. He’s also decided to offer it to jailbroken phones via Cydia. “I’d rather just make it available for free,” he says, “instead of just not having it available to anyone.” Good on him. At least someone’s not just out for number one.

Looks like, due to these recent developments, the App Store will be doing without the talents of Mr. Kovacs from now on. “My days of developing for the iPhone are probably done,” he says. As an iPhone user, I'm kind of sad about this. But I don't blame him one bit.


[via PCWorld, The New York Times]



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