Monday, March 01, 2010

Apple Becomes Your Mom

Apple Removes "Sexy" Apps

Apple has finally done it: they've become like a concerned mother wagging their finger at you. Last week, they took down hundreds of apps that satisfy more prurient interests. Yes, unfortunately, this was the biggest story last week. Call it a post-MWC funk.

Anyway, I really hate to harp on Apple about the iPhone app store, but every once in a while I think they need an "I told you so". I don't mean an "I told you so" that the app store would be unsuccessful - it's obviously doing gangbusters. Rather, a lot of tech journalists pointed out that censorship is a very slippery slope. Once you start policing what can be done on the devices you sell, you open a Padora's box of customer concerns and developer frustration. This latest app store bust is pretty crazy - even the biggest iPhone lovers have to agree. When you're literally kicking apps out because they have pictures of figure skaters in them, you're taking it too far. What's worse is when you kick out the little guys, like Suicide Girls, and instead preserve Playboy and Sports Illustrated. Now, Apple is not taking a stand for morality or against objectifying women, they're instead making a token concession while implicitly supporting Playboy. Yes, that seems crazy, but it's basically what they're doing. When you establish hard rules of what you're going to throw out of the store and then let someone off the hook who clearly breaks those rules it's a big contradiction.

Why did Apple do this? Apparently, they were getting too many customer complaints from concerned parents and women, in general. Apple already ceded a while ago by allowing you to restrict a phone to not be able to download mature apps, but you can still see them when you browse the app store. I think that was a valid concession (albeit, somewhat silly since it's not like there's already half-naked women all over TV and the Internet for curious teenagers). This censorship is just another reminder that Apple literally holds the incomes of more than a few mobile development shops in their hands. It's a lot of power when you consider how popular the app store has become. It's really unfortunate that they're being so irresponsible with it. If they had removed Playboy and Sports Illustrated then that would be more understandable, but Apple is basically showing that there are no rules in the app store other than the rules they make up depending on who you are and how much money you bring them. They can do this as long as Android, Palm, and Blackberry stay in the backseat, but I really hope that competition from Android helps them come to their senses. Between that story and the one on child labor at some of their factories, I feel really bad for Apple PR.

The Other Smartphones

I do have some news on your other favorite smartphone competitors.

Microsoft is actually putting some effort into courting developers with Windows Phone 7, which is something they've done a terrible job of with previous versions of Windows Mobile. Right now, they're working with hardware manufacturers to get some unity across different Windows Phone 7 devices (a big issue with previous Windows Mobile devices), but there's still no details yet on the development kit. Surely, Microsoft understands that this platform is dead in the water if they can't attract mobile developers, so we'll see what they do in the months to come. At the Engadget Show last week, an LG Windows Phone 7 device was actually spotted, but it doesn't seem all that exciting. Just another smartphone until we see more of it.

For the two of you out there interested in webOS: version 1.4 came out over the weekend bringing a number of welcome improvements including video recording (and editing), huge compatibility improvements in the browser, a much improved way to start apps to promote multi-tasking, and blinking light notification on the gesture area. Now that webOS 1.4 is out, Flash 10.1 beta is just around the corner as 1.4 has changes necessary to support it, which will make the Pre and Pixi (and, of course, their Verizon counterparts) among the first phones to support Flash. This has been one of the biggest updates to webOS since the Pre's launch, but it doesn't matter unless Palm starts pimping out these features in their ads.

If you think that the iPhone leads the smartphone market, then think again. I believe that graph reflects worldwide revenues, which is why Nokia is so big even though it's a struggle to spot a Nokia phone when you walk down the street. I know Nokias are big in India because I remember wondering when I was there how people could tolerate such terrible UIs. Nokia has even had better sales growth that Apple, who was actually 3rd behind RIM. I wish the graphic would've included webOS and Android, even if their combined market share is smaller than HTC (I hope that it isn't).

Google Hacker Discovered

The source of the attacks on Google from January has been discovered to be a Chinese security consultant. The attacks were cleverly disguised as coming from the IP addresses of a trade school, which doesn't prove anything given that they could easily have been part of a botnet. The government is believe to have leveraged this consultant's code to conduct the attack, but China still denies involvement.

This same guy may have been part of an attack on Intel that occurred around the same time. This theory hasn't been proved yet, but given the nature of the circumstances, it's likely that the attacks were related. Apparently, Intel and Google were two of 34 companies that were attacked around the same time, so this thing was a pretty big deal. Intel is remaining pretty mum on what damage the attack did, which could mean that serious secrets were leaked.

Unrelated to the January attacks, a major phishing exploit hit Twitter last week by way of direct messages. It asks if a given link is you, and when you click through it uses your account to send a similar message to 10 other people. It's not clear whether or not your login credentials are leaked in the process to send out future spam, but given that people are being advised to change their password if they've clicked through I'd bet that whatever else happens on click-through is not good.


I'm almost falling asleep here while typing so it's time to wrap up.

Ars Technica did a really great investigation of why most of the US doesn't have 100 Mbps internet connections. I wish I had more time to talk about it, but it's definitely worth a read.

3 Google executives were convicted for failing to comply with Italian privacy laws in a case where Google Video allowed a video to be uploaded of an autistic kid being bullied. This case has definitely gone too far and Google feels pretty sore about it.

Sony, Samsung, LG, Hitachi, and Toshiba have been accused by a small electronics store of price fixing on optical disc drives. Apparently, this sort of stuff isn't that uncommon in the East so these charges may have some merit behind them.

Amazon was the most trusted brand of 2009 (according to market research company Millward Brown)! Amazon actually sells about half the other brands on that list and ships merchandise through two of them.

UT Austin made Network World's list of the nation's 10 hottest computer science schools! Hook 'em!

The winners of the Engadget Awards have been announced with the PS3 and Droid aimpressively going home with two awards apiece. It was kind of interesting that the editors thought the Nuvifone was the worst device of the year whereas everyone else was more let down by the 3G Shuffle.

Have a great first week of March, everyone!

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