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Google Voice embraced by Apple?

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We may be about to witness the final chapter of that interminable Russian novel War and Peace and Apple and AT&T and Google Voice. Reports have surfaced that Mountain View's native iPhone app for its telephony service might finally be accepted into the sacred confines of the iTunes App Store.

"We've gotten word that the official Google Voice application is on its way to the iPhone in the next few weeks," writes Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch.

To quote Jerome John Garcia, "What a long, strange trip it's been."

The saga began in July of last year, when Apple barred not only Google Voice from the App Store, but also dumped two Google Voice-enabled third-party apps. Google was not pleased — and neither was the US Federal Communications Commission.

Shortly after the App Store police's purge, the FCC demanded that Apple, Google, and AT&T reveal why Google Voice got the boot — and an epic round of finger-pointing began.

Google's letter in response to the FCC's six-question request for info said that Apple reps had told them that "the Google Voice application was rejected because Apple believed the application duplicated the the core dialer functionality of the iPhone."

Google also "respectfully" requested that portions of its response be kept confidential "in light of the sensitive nature of commercial discussions" — and in one of those sensitive section they revealed that the no-go order was passed down to them not by some mere functionary, but by sometime–Jobsian keynote stand-in, Apple marketing headman Phil Schiller.

Apple made its response to the FCC public, contradicting Google's story by saying: "Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it."

Cupertino's comments also noted that "Apple is acting alone and has not consulted with AT&T about whether or not to approve the Google Voice application."

After Apple made their FCC letter public, Google essentially said "The hell with it," and dropped its confidentialty request and allowed the Commission to release the letter.

For their part, AT&T's legal eagle issued a statement saying: "Let me state unequivocally, AT&T had no role in any decision by Apple to not accept the Google Voice application for inclusion in the Apple App Store."

When asked to describe Google's communications with AT&T on the matter, Mountain View's reponse was succinct: "None."

AT&T had plenty to say to the FCC about Google, though. In a sideshow to the central Google Voice brouhaha, Big Phone attacked Mountain View's blocking of unprofitable phone calls over Google Voice, calling it a violation of telecommunications regulations.

And that's where l'affaire Google Voice stalled — until earlier this month, when the developer of one of the originally banned third party Google Voice apps, GV Mobile, was told by Apple that his app would be approved if he resubmitted it. The app reappeared on the App Store last Saturday.

So what has changed? Well, as with so many things Cupertinian, it's not entirely clear — but it's certainly no coincidence that Apple's more-relaxed attitude towards both Google Voice and third-party apps that tap into Google's telephony service come hot on the heels of the release of Jobs & Co's App Store Review Guidelines, which finally spell out with some specificity what will and won't be approved for inclusion in the sacred Store.

Of course, TechCrunch's source may be incorrect — neither Apple nor Google are talking — but our hunch is that you'll soon be able to download a copy of a native iPhone version of Google Voice in short order.

Finally. ®

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