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In praise of Apple's anti-porn crusade

AppleApple appears to be embarking on a new anti-smut crusade to rid its iPhone App Store of "overtly sexual content". Some have called Apple's crusade - which has included some relatively tame adult fare - hypocritical, but it makes good business sense.

Apple's actions are designed to appease customers who have complained in the company's support forums and elsewhere about adult content in the App Store. According to Information Week, Apple developers have also complained about the sex-themed apps, which they say are making other apps harder to find.

At first glance, Apple's move appears either prudish or hypocritical or both. Sexually explicit content was already forbidden in the App Store, and some of the newly banned apps were about as racy as the Sport Illustrated swimsuit issue.

And if Apple really wants to protect App Store users from sexually themed content, why doesn't it remove Safari from the iPhone and iPod touch? After all, the web browser is by far the most efficient porn-delivery app ever devised.

Why Apple is smart

Apple's true motivation, it seems, is to protect its booming iPod touch and fledgling iPad operations.

Take the iPod touch, for instance. Apple's portable media device is wildly popular with kids, who love the gaming, browsing and audio/video tools. Parents like the fact that the iPod touch provides much of what makes the iPhone cool, only without the pricey monthly wireless bills.

Indeed, analysts have called the iPod touch an iPhone with stabiliser wheels, and Apple realises its device is a gateway drug to the iPhone. In other words, kids who are comfortable with the iPod touch are more likely to migrate to the iPhone when they're older.

So-called smut

Which leads us back to the App Store. Apple can't afford to allow its customers - even a vocal minority - to complain about so-called smut in the App Store, even if the complaints are overblown. The impression that Apple condones adult-themed material finding its way into kids' hands would certainly hurt iPod touch sales, and ultimately affect its iPhone and App Store business too.

As for the iPad, it's clear that Apple will position its new tablet not only as a consumer device for the home, but also as an educational tool. Software developers are already designing interactive textbooks for the iPad, according to reports. Again, Apple must squash the impression that the App Store is a haven for smut to increase the odds of classroom sales. A few negative news stories about wobbly-boob apps could very well spur many school districts to think twice about adding the iPad as a study tool.

Bottom line: the porn purge is a smart business move on Apple's part, even if it appears prudish to outsiders.

See also:

Apple iPhone 3GS review

Apple iPod touch (3rd generation) review

Apple iPad review

PC World

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