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Our story so far:

Chapter 1: Apple creates the iPhone.

Chapter 2: Apple opens the App Store, an online catalog of cheap or free programs that you can download straight to the phone. Programmers all over the world write 70,000 apps for it that perform every amazing feat you can name.

Chapter 3: One of them is Google Voice, a front end for Google’s amazing free phone-management system. Among its many features: it lets you send free text messages and make 2-cent international calls, right from the iPhone.

Chapter 4: Apple mysteriously rejects this eminently useful app, refusing to list it in the App Store.

Then it goes even further: it actually deletes from the App Store two similar programs called GV Mobile and Voice Central, which have been there for months. That is, Apple changes its mind retroactively — and won’t give the developers any logical explanation.

Chapter 5: The blogosphere goes nuts. There’s only one possible reason that Apple might delete these apps: because AT&T demanded it.

Why would AT&T care? Because of those free text messages and cheap international calls, of course. If these apps became popular, AT&T’s revenue could take a serious hit.

This business has blown up in Apple/AT&T’s face. The Federal Communications Commission, in fact, is now sniffing around, sending letters to Apple, AT&T and Google, clearly wondering if there’s some illegal collusion going on. A few days later, Google’s chief executive stepped down from Apple’s board; tension is rising.

Read more here.