Seventeen months after Google submitted its Voice application to Apple’s app store it was finally approved for download. If it takes over a year to have Apple approve an app from one of the world’s largest companies, with prodding from the FCC, I can’t imagine how long it could take to have an app of my own approved that Apple didn’t like. Without working for Apple it is hard to say why the app wasn’t approved until now, In Apple’s written response to the FCC, they give some reasons (at the time) why they had not approved the Google Voice app. What seems strange to me today, now that the application has been approved, is that I can’t imagine Google has substantially changed anything in the time since they first submitted the app.
In the first section of Apple’s response to the FCC they claim that “Apple’s innovation has also fostered competition as other companies … seek to develop their own mobile platforms…” However, one of the reasons Apple gives for why the Google Voice application was not approved yet was because it “appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience,” I guess what Apple is really trying to say is that as long as their own innovations push other companies to improve it is okay, but if other companies try to improve on their own products that won’t be allowed. While I don’t have an iPhone or the Google Voice application, if I did have an iPhone and then installed the Google Voice application and suddenly I hated the way my phone now worked, to me at least I would get rid of the Voice app.
The entire meaning of innovation is to renew something and to build upon something that already exists. If the public, or users of Apple’s iPhone to be precise feel that the Voice application is a worthwhile improvement that builds upon their phone, more than likely it will push Apple towards the next step. AOL and CompuServe are perfect examples why a closed box doesn’t last, it becomes outdated and stagnant.
As a counter example to extremely long road to publication for the iPhone version of Google Voice take LimeWire Pirate Edition. In late October the recording industry was able to finally obtain an injunction against LimeWire that basically forced it to stop operating and for it to attempt to stop everything related to LimeWire that it could. But because of the openness of the internet and of the platforms that LimeWire runs on, in less than a month a group of programmers was able to build upon the existing code and modify it to be able to run as a new version and without the ability for LimeWire LLC to shut it down. I’m sure that no one who downloads and uses this new version of LimeWire is doing so only to share public domain material, but most likely to share copyrighted material. Regardless of the legality of the uses the stark contrast is a perfect example to the differences between a platform that is very locked down and one that is completely open and fosters innovation. So many of the technologies that are used widely on the internet today, P2P for example, were developed for purposes that weren’t legal but today have many valuable and legal uses.