I admit, I was one of those to pile on ol' Ma Bell as the culprit for keeping the Google Voice app (don't I wish that was a real iTunes link) off the App Store. Restrictions on Skype and the SlingPlayer app on the iPhone had conditioned me to believe that the "game changing" iPhone had, well, a completely different set of rules applied to it by AT&T. While many in the tech community continued to jump atop the dog pile, in which AT&T was at the very bottom, Apple ran the ball back the other way without anybody noticing.
Apple's response to the FCC's questions covers several areas -- including the fact that it acted alone without AT&T's consultation -- in rejecting not yet allowing the Google Voice app. Almost as striking as Apple's admitted culpability, however, is its rationale for it, which smacks of odd logic and damages the spirit of the App Store.
In short, Apple states that it rejected "continues to study" Google Voice because, in its current form, the app "replaces the iPhone's core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface for telephone calls, text messages and voicemail."
While the iPhone is more than the sum of its parts, the phone portion of it is arguably the least compelling when compared to other features. Out of the box, the iPhone comes with several apps pre-installed. And, based on their placement at the foot of the home screen (as well as Steve Jobs' Macworld proclamation), Apple views the iPhone as "an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator (Safari and Mail)." But the advent of the App Store and the third party apps that arrived with it further reinvented a device that had already reinvented the entire tech market. If the iPhone wasn't already viewed as a computer-first, phone-a-distant-second device, it certainly took this form after the App Store.
Taken at face value, Apple's rationale for rejecting Google Voice also means that YouMail [iTunes link], TextFree [iTunes link], and Skype [iTunes link] should be rejected as well. As Mike noted yesterday, YouMail could serve as a replacement for Visual Voicemail, TextFree could supplant the iPhone's SMS client, and Skype could do both, albeit in a different and slightly limited capacity.