Is Apple about to flip-flop on their strict zero-adult content policy for the app store? While the decision to allow Playboy to sell uncensored digital copies of their magazine, including archived issues, might sound trivial, it could well lead to major changes in the way the app store functions. At the same time, for a publisher like Playboy as well, it makes sense as it is unlikely that anyone would pay for the watered down version of the magazine that could pass the existing norms.
Since Playboy is a major publisher itself, the possibility that they were able to reach a deal with Apple is not beyond belief either, and so, according to a tweet by Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, from March 2011, the iPad will be home to digital editions of the world’s most famous adult magazine.
Steve Jobs has very clearly said that he doesn’t intend to allow porn on the iOS platform, and allowing Playboy on the iPad will definitely be pushing that decision. Playboy is circumventing the issue by building the app as a web based program – but this raises other issues, like whether Apple will try to clamp down on web apps, the way they have complete control over the app store.
Regardless of one’s personal opinions on pornography, the fact remains that one of the biggest, and most justified criticisms leveled against the app store is the autocratic approval regime, which can often be a bottleneck to creativity, and yet remains the single point of access to a range of iDevices.
Checks today are in place against obscenity, but at some point, the decision making chain at Apple has the option to slowly block out any and all content it does not privately approve of – considering the tremendous reach of Apple’s handheld computing devices, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.