Marketplace Scratch Pad

Apple’s saucy apps

Scott Jagow Feb 23, 2010

Apple’s decision to delete 6,000 applications from its iPhone store is creating something of a stir. The apps were considered objectionable by some, or to quote our senior editor Paddy Hirsch — they were “saucy apps.” But there’s controversy because apps from the likes of Playboy are still available.

So you can’t play Sexy Scratch Off, an app that depicted a woman whose dress could be swiped away, revealing her underwear. But you can see women in their underwear with the Victoria Secret app. And you can see them in bikinis in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit app. What’s the difference?

Money, of course. Here’s MacWorld’s take:

If SI Swimsuit 2010 and Playboy are not eventually removed along with their competition, this recent ban will mark a whole new low for Apple’s walled garden. Ambiguous, moving-target policies are one thing (and, even after a year and a half, Apple still needs to fix them). But instantly destroying the income of independent developers–no matter how useless or degrading you feel their apps may be–while allowing major publishers to peddle the same product is an entirely different thing.

Apple’s head of worldwide product marketing Peter Schiller told the New York Times this:

“It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see,” Mr. Schiller said…

When asked about the Sports Illustrated app, Mr. Schiller said Apple took the source and intent of an app into consideration. “The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format,” he said.

More from the Times:

Fred Clarke, co-president of a small software company called On the Go Girls, which made Sexy Scratch Off, said that as of Monday all 50 of his company’s applications were no longer available. They included an application in which a woman wearing a swimsuit appeared to wipe finger marks from the iPhone’s screen with a rag and spray bottle.

Like so:

“I’m shocked,” said Mr. Clarke, who said the company had not had a problem with its applications since the first one went on sale last June. “We’re showing stuff that’s racier than the Disney Channel, but not by much.”

Apple has every right to kick out whoever and whatever it wants. It has a brand and a image to protect. But it seems to have a policy that is arbitrary and a double-standard.
Here’s more from MacWorld:

An Apple spokesperson allegedly gave the developer of iWobble a list of seven “new rules” that cover banned App Store content. This list (which Apple does not seem to have added to its official App Store guidelines) includes such broad-sweeping and woefully ambiguous gems as “no skin,” “nothing that can be sexually arousing,” and even “no sexual connotations or innuendo such as ‘boobs,’ ‘babes,’ or ‘booty.'”

I can’t imagine what would happen to the iTunes Store’s music selection if songs containing “babe” and “booty” suffered this same fate.

Well, I imagine nothing would happen as long as the songs were produced by a major record company.

What do you think of Apple’s approach?

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