Strangeness in the Apple Kingdom continues, when last week a South Park app was rejected from Apple’s App Store for being “potentially offensive” - even though iTunes already carries the South Park show and movies. Apple’s been pretty heavy-handed with their randomized rules and regulations for app approval. That said, it will be interesting to see how it deals with the upcoming Ecko-designed Dexter game which is getting a beta run-through by reviewers as we speak (hey, where’s our copy?…Showtime did inform us directly that the game is tentatively scheduled for a May 1st release…). We also know that in this game you -Dexter- do everything from setting up the revenge room to strapping your victim to the table. Here’s how a reviewer from IGN described it:
Once you have Donovan strapped to a table, you engage him in conversation. Now, if you thought Dexter was dark up to this point, wait until you listen to the dialog here. Written by one of the show’s writers, Timothy Schlattmann, the dialog in the game sounds authentic. It’s also delivered by Michael C. Hall, who plays Dexter in the show. You have different dialog options to choose from, each [with] varying degrees of edge. The rightmost of your three options is somewhat cloying, allowing you to tease a confession out of Donovan. The leftmost option, which is shadowed, is grisly. Dexter gets right to the point and confronts Donovan in ugly language (not necessarily cursing) that is downright scary.
Yes, it’ll be interesting to see where Dexter, our favorite blood-lusting anti-hero, reads on Apple’s morality meter.
This issue has been hotly debated since September. Many blogs participated as users discussed the longterm negative effects these restrictions will have (is already starting to have) on programmers, consumers, and Apple itself. “Call Me Fishmeal” echoed some worthwhile suggestions to Apple:
Publish all software submitted to Apple, as long as the software isn’t actively harmful to users, illegal, and does not violate Apple’s agreements with cell phone vendors. Period.
Wired created their own version of an agreeable policy that adds a few necessary touches and is worth checking out as well – especially in regards to Apple monopolizing their format after seemingly opening the doors to programmers. Some even go as far as to suggest they won’t include apps that Apple wishes Apple had created. The dubious term “duplication of functionality” being bandied about as the reasoning for being denied dashed developer confidence.
There was already a non-disclosure agreement one must agree to when downloading the Software Development Kit (SDK), which legally banned developers from sharing code, programming tips, or talking details regarding such in forums. When Apple reiterated the “non-disclosure” message in their rejection letters (meaning those rejected were now not even allowed to publicly discuss their rejection), it certainly irked many app creators. In the age of Obama transparency -lol- is this not a step in the wrong direction?
In light of this, the open marketplace Apple originally seemed to be offering becomes somewhat of a facade. Without very specific guidelines to follow, developers are spending formidable hours and man-power to make an app that may potentially have no home. Even though the iPhone/Apple folk are devoted, it does offer more room for the competition – particularly in the form of Google’s Android market which at the same time of this controversy essentially pushed an Open Source free-for-all position regarding their applications.
Fact is, when the app store first opened Steve Jobs himself announced the guidelines, which included not allowing porn and malicious content – and no one had any problems there. But there was another guideline on the list entitled “unforeseen”, which is the one that now seems to be the crux of the conflict.
To some the fact they also carry online books, turns them into a virtual library – a library that censors its bookshelves and burns authors of books that happen to have illicit or objectionable content. Just last month, when Knife Music author David Carnoy willingly cut out a few f-bombs in order to get his ebook approved, it cut like a knife in the heart and soul of authors everywhere. Carnoy explained, from his perspective, that it was “more important to have people check the book out – along with the whole concept of ebooks on the iPhone.” Is this a matter of capitalism or fascism?
The irony of Apple’s Big Brother commercial is not lost here. Way back when, Apple figuratively smashed the fascist domination of IBM and awakened the drone-like users to the freedom of Apple home computing. 1984 won’t be like “1984″, the ad stated, but will 2009 be like “1984″? Is Apple -with their reigns on the App Store and their expected domination of the Smartphone market- setting themselves up as the new thought police?
Yes, writers can choose to publish their works in other arenas. As far as eBooks – it’s another area where Google offers it all with their Kindle (though there are already puns of Kindle’s name having connotations to “book burning” and -though there are many pluses to having immediate, tree-huggin’ access- fears that in a syncing, all-electronic format we may see in the future government censorship of reading matter easier, more subtle, and potentially dangerous).
Yes, Apple -as a business- has a right to sell whatever they want. But make your rules comprehensible. Why allow music with explicit lyrics while rejecting them in an ebook? Why allow some things on iTunes and your iPod and not the iPhone? If the fear is of minors getting their hands on explicit material over their iPhone or iTouch, spend some energy towards creating a mechanism which would allow parents of minors to go online or to AT&T to block content from their child’s device (I believe there is already content rating in place, so it shouldn’t be drastically difficult).
The only consistency in Apple’s app rules are, as the Southpark creators expressed, arbitrary and with inconsistent enforcement. Perhaps it’s not censorship, in the true sense of the word, but it just seems that in the best of worlds Apple should maintain their initial stance, and baring any malicious or pornographic materials, they should let the public decide which apps rise to the top. Are we not intelligent enough to do that? Like Southpark, for Dexter there’s no way to edit out a few bad words -in the case of Dexter’s sister Deb, that would be every other word- to appease to all mommies (and our Big Bro’s at the App Store). Though there’s an edited version of Dexter on CBS, there’s no runaround to the whole basis of the show: Dexter murders people, albeit evil people, that the system might otherwise let get away (and he enjoys every minute of it!). That said, one can only hope something will change at Apple and the App Store between now and the expected May 1st release date of the Dexter iPhone game.
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More details on the Dexter game as they are made available, for now a sampling of apps being added to the unacceptable file can be scoped out here. As well as some originally rejected gag-apps that, as of December, suddenly weren’t deemed “limited utility and okay-ed for release. These include the popular iJiggles, iFart, and Pull My Finger, while the better jiggler called Wobble had to edit out any reference to boobies and booties before it was okayed.
We didn’t get into Jailbreaking and installing unapproved third party apps, but obviously that is always an option. There are important articles regarding such -and interesting cases pending as we speak- on the iPhone Hacks site so click here! The fact that Mozilla and Skype are getting involved in trying to make “legal” the Jailbreaking of the iPhone makes it all the more interesting!