Apple 2.0

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What did Apple and Google talk about for three weeks in July?

September 19, 2009: 10:48 AM ET
Apple's Schiller and Google's Eustace

Apple's Schiller and Google's Eustace

In the letter to the FCC that Google (GOOG) released Friday -- the one that flatly contradicts the story Apple (AAPL) told the government -- there's an interesting timeline of events.

At the heart of the case, for those who haven't been following every twist and turn, is an application called Google Voice that Google had been trying since June to get onto the iPhone App Store. Google says that Apple rejected the app. Apple says it never did.

This would be funny, as Brian Caulfield puts it, if the Feds weren't involved.

What interests me today is the three weeks following the telephone call in which, according to Google's newly un-redacted letter, Apple's top marketing executive -- Phil Schiller -- told Google's senior engineering guy -- Alan Eustace -- that Apple was rejecting Google Voice because it duplicated the iPhone's dialing function. Here's the sequence of events, as Google has it:

  • June 2: Google submits Google Voice for approval
  • July 5 (a Sunday): Google and Apple begin "a series of in person meetings, phone calls and emails" to discuss the approval status of the app. Schiller and Eustace are the primary points of contact between the two companies.
  • July 7 (two days later): Schiller informs Eustace by telephone that Apple was rejecting Google's application
  • July 27 (three weeks later): Apple pulls three previously approved Google Voice-enabled applications from the App Store. A Google spokesperson complains to the press.
  • July 28: The series of meetings, phone calls and emails between Apple and Google ends.
  • July 31: The FCC launches an inquiry into the matter; asks Apple, Google and AT&T (T) to explain what happened.

So here's my question: If Schiller, as Google claims, rejected the app on July 7, what did the two companies talk about for the next three weeks?

If instead, as Apple claims, Schiller alerted Eustace that Apple had problems with the app but was still considering approval, what happened three weeks later that caused the company to pull those other Google Voice-enabled apps and send Google's PR team squawking to the press?

It's possible that there's enough wiggle room in the two versions of events that both sides are telling the truth. It's also possible that either Apple or Google dissembled in their letters to the FCC -- although Google has less reason to do so than Apple.

There's a way to get to the bottom of this. The FCC has subpoena power. If chairman Julius Genachowski is serious, as he maintains he is, about getting the necessary "facts and data," he can call Schiller and Eustace to Washington, put them under oath, and ask them directly who said what to whom.

An Apple spokesman has declined to comment directly on Google's claim that Schiller rejected Google's application. He said instead that Apple did not agree with all the statements in Google's letter to the FCC. And he reiterated that Apple had not rejected Google Voice, but is, in fact, still considering it.

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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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