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Apple cleans up its apps

Conspiracy theorists are having a field day after Apple undertook a purge of inappropriate applications from its App Store.

All told, about 6,000 apps were removed over several days last week. Although that represents less than 5% of the Store's estimated 140,000 apps, it is still a significant number and the move could have a profound impact on the profitability of some of the affected developers.  

In an interview with The New York Times, Apple's head of worldwide product marketing, Phil Schiller, said that developers had been submitting an increasing number of apps containing "very 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," said Schiller.

However, the purge appeared to be highly selective, with apps like Dirty Fingers – where a woman wearing a bikini wipes "smudge marks" from the iPhone window – and Wobble iBoobs getting booted from the Store, while apps from Playboy and Sports Illustrated survived.

Mr. Schiller said that Apple had taken into account the source and intent of the application when allowing some of the bigger-name apps to remain on sale. "The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available in a well-accepted format," said Schiller, speaking specifically about Sports Illustrated.

Some industry observers believe Apple is attempting to clean up the App Store ahead of the launch of the iPad, a tablet-style device that Apple hopes will be popular with families and schools. While it might be OK to see scantily-clad women on a small handheld device like the iPhone, it could be a different matter once the image pops up on the iPad's 10-inch LED backlit screen.

However, the irony of the App Store clean-up is not lost on some other commentators. iTunes has no problem selling R-rated movies and the music store is full of explicit lyrics and risqué album covers. Or you could just open Apple's browser, Safari, and download the offending apps from there.

"Apparently, exposed cleavage in Playboy is less offensive to women and parents because it's also being printed in a magazine, or something," writes Jason Kincaid of technology website TechCrunch. "Still, such favoritism sets a bad precedent for the App Store, and Schiller's explanation just feels lame." 

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