Should Playboy Be Banned from the iPhone?

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Steve Jobs always said he wanted Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) to make sexy products, but apparently even he has limits.

Earlier this week, Apple started to crack down on any apps for the iPhone that show too much skin. Some of the apps that have been banned include SlideHer, Sexy Scratch Off and Dirty Fingers. (The names should speak for themselves.) They are now enforcing a new set of rules. No pictures of women (or men) in bikinis, no sexually arousing content or even sexual innuendos, etc.

This sudden shift in Apple’s policy caught developers off guard. But today, Philip W. Schiller, the head of Apple’s global product marketing division, offered a slightly delayed explanation to the New York Times. Apparently, more apps than usual have entered the Appstore recently with “objectionable content.”

“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,” Schiller told the Times.

It’s a sensible point, and a decent strategy to protect Apple's squeaky clean brand, but will it come back to haunt them?

Some industry insiders are still flabbergasted by what can only be called Apple’s double standard. Apple’s skin purge has not yet affected the app for Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue or the app for Playboy (Stock Quote: PLA) Magazine.

More from the Times: ‘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.’”

But this sounds like a thinner argument. To put it bluntly, if Apple wants to enforce a ban on raunchy content, then we need to call a breast a breast. If the company is unwilling to remove the Playboy app, though it clearly violates the rules above, they should not be so hasty to police the more amateur apps. The brilliance of the Appstore has always been that it is a relatively democratic place where even a small developer can make a successful app. But if the bigger companies get to play by different rules, doesn’t that tarnish the original model?

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