If you've been following coverage of Apple's rejection of Google Voice for iPhone, you saw TUAW blogger Chris Rawson considering whether pressure from AT&T might have been behind the Google Voice rejection -- an assumption first floated by TechCrunch and later substantiated by Daring Fireball. The absurd nature of the app removals is highlighted in the blog post from Riverturn, developers of VoiceCentral, which reports the conversation with an Apple representative.
Google Voice offers free call forwarding to your home, office, and cell, free Internet-accessible voice mail (with text transcription!), free SMS, and a single phone number for life. These free features compete against AT&T's revenue streams.
When it comes to "duplicate functionality", Apple doesn't seem to have any problem allowing applications like AT&T co-branded Virtual Recptionist (iTunes link) in App Store. Virtual Receptionist provides custom call forwarding to three phone numbers, in a similar manner to Google Voice.
In the wake of the rejection, sites like Wired, which should get credit for predicting this issue, have considered whether Apple's move might invite regulation due to the company's control over the App Store and possible anti-competitive concerns. A legislative response isn't out of the question should enough unhappy customers start petitioning their congressmen, especially in a political climate that encourages government intervention in private business. Granted, the iPhone isn't a monopoly among smartphones, but Apple does hold all the cards when it comes to app approval on the platform.
ChannelWeb's Rick Whiting (via the Wall Street Journal) points out that the US Department of Justice has "begun investigating whether large U.S. telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon Communications were engaging in anti-competitive behavior, including locking up the most popular handsets. The exclusive deal between AT&T-Apple is said to be drawing the most scrutiny." Whiting believes that AT&T and Apple may be drawing attention from a DOJ intent on cracking down on exactly this kind of excess. AT&T's tight relationship with Apple might be affecting how Apple runs App Store, as might be the case with the Google Voice rejection.