By Todd Bernhard on Sun, 02/21/2010
"Apple has reversed their policy". If I've heard it once, I've heard it a million times. Actually, I google'd those words and found 994,000 results, so that's not an exaggeration! Apple has had enough of the 'bikini' apps and has begun removing such apps from the App Store.
I must admit, I am a bit conflicted here. As a father, it can be frustrating seeing 17+ apps when doing searches or browsing the App Store. Those apps obviously sell, but that pushes other apps down in the rankings, making it harder to sell. As a developer of family-friendly apps, this is also frustrating because it means less "exposure" (pun intended) for my apps!
On the other hand, I would hate to be a developer who purchased rights to images or even hired models, developers, etc., only to have my apps pulled because Apple changed their mind. As a developer, this sends a chilling message, that we cannot assume the rules are fixed. While developers must obey Apple's rules, they can change them at any time. It's their store, and their iPhone or iPod, so what they say goes. But antitrust laws and 'Restraint of Trade' are serious matters. However, it's doubtful that any politician wants to put their reputation on the line to defend soft-porn apps.
We hear stories all the time about developers who quit their day job because of their success on the app store. Indeed, I am one of those success stories. Fortunately, my apps are not necessarily controversial. But then again, Apple decides what is acceptable.
I believe the correct solution would be to put all of the 'bikini' apps in their own category, and require some age verification before browsing such apps. For a recent school project, my daughter needed to search for images on the Internet. We used Yahoo image search's 'Safe Search' mode and it would be easy for Apple to adopt the same system in the App Store.
Apple has made a lot of money from those apps, and boasted about the 140,000 apps, many of which they have now banned. Is this about Apple's reputation or bottom line?
What do you think? Is Apple acting too heavy-handed? Is it their store so it's their choice and developers concerns are irrelevant? Should a compromise be reached, where such apps can have their own section? Will this impact Apple's revenue or sales of devices? Will the result be a flock of developers to Android, Windows Phone System 7 and other platforms?