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Arrington to Apple: Liar liar pants on fire

August 22, 2009: 6:33 AM ET
Arrington. Image: TechCrunch

Arrington on The Charlie Rose Show. Image: TechCrunch

"A total lie." "Untrue." "Misleading." "Complete fabrication." "Way beyond misleading."

Those are some of the nicer things Michael Arrington had to say about Apple (AAPL) in his analysis of what he calls "Apple's long rambling letter to the FCC."

Arrington, for those who don't have Techmeme on their morning reading list, is the former securities lawyer and serial entrepreneur who runs TechCrunch, arguably Silicon Valley's most influential tech blog.

The letter he's referring to is Apple's formal response to an inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission into the role AT&T (T) played in Apple's rejection of Google's (GOOG) powerful Google Voice app. See here.

AT&T's answer: we played no role. Google's answer: redacted. Apple's answer: we never rejected the app; we just haven't, for various reasons, approved it yet. (link)

Arrington's response: Apple is lying through its teeth. In particular, he writes:

Apple: "Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it."

Reality: One third party Google Voice app developer disclosed to us in July that Apple SVP Phil Schiller told them that Google's own app would be or already was rejected. Google also confirmed this to us later. There is overwhelming evidence that Apple did in fact reject the application.

Apple: "The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone's distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone's core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail ..."

Reality: This strongly suggests that the Google Voice app replaces much of the core Apple iPhone OS function. This certainly isn't accurate, and we believe the statement is misleading ...

Apple: "... The Google Voice application replaces Apple's Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple's Visual Voicemail."

Reality: Not true and misleading. The Google Voice application has its own voicemail function, which also transcribes messages. But it only works for incoming Google Voice calls, not calls to the iPhone. The Google Voice app in no way "replaces" Apple's voicemail function.

Apple: "Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub — replacing the iPhone's text messaging feature."

Reality: Not true and misleading. The Google Voice app doesn't replace or in any way interfere with the iPhone's text messaging feature. If someone sends a text message to your Google Voice number, the Google Voice app shows it. If it is sent directly to the iPhone phone number, nothing is different.

Apple: "In addition, the iPhone user's entire Contacts database is transferred to Google's servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time."

Reality: Complete fabrication, way beyond misleading. The Google Voice app can access the iPhone's contacts database, like thousands of other iPhone apps. But the Google Voice app never syncs the contacts database to their own servers. There is no option for users to do this ... (link)

Apple has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Arrington it must be said, is not an entirely disinterested party. His company is preparing to market a Web tablet -- the CrunchPad -- that might compete directly with the tablet Apple is rumored to be building. And after enthusiastically embracing Apple's iPhone, he announced in July that he was abandoning it for a BlackBerry Curve that will run Google Voice (see here).

Moreover, Arrington's TechCrunch 50 conference, now in its third year, is scheduled to begin Sept. 14 (tickets cost $2,995 at the door), which gives him even more motivation than usual to make himself the center of attention.

In the end, Arrington believes, Apple will find a face-saving way to accept the Google Voice application. "They have to," he writes. "Any serious investigation into the app by the FCC will show that the complaints around the app are unfounded and that it does none of the things Apple accuses it of doing."

Arrington's colleague Steve Gillmor goes one step further. He writes in TechCrunchIT that the whole Google Voice affair is a Machiavellian plot against -- you guessed it -- AT&T.

"Strip away the religious fervor of the Arrington plan ... and you might glimpse the true reality of what's going on. Namely, that Apple is conspiring with Google to force the FCC to 'force' Apple to, regrettably, open the door to VoIP and the Universal Inbox."

We won't hold our breath.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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