06/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

There Is an App for What? Why Apple Had to Police the App Store

Apple's App Store is a runaway hit. At the same time, Apple has been labeled, for its mercurial and opaque App Store approval process, as "a joke", "inconsistent hypocrite", and "notorious for doing things on a whim without an explanation". The issue really hit developers when over 5000 apps with questionable and suggestive content were unceremoniously removed one fine day. Steve Jobs recently declared with characteristic flamboyance:

We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone!

This leads us to an array of questions. Why would Apple do such a thing - approve apps that serve blatant-to-borderline-sleazy content, and then go back on its word - and earn the wrath of developers? Is Apple's role as a gate-keeper of App Store propriety justified?

To understand Apple's rationale, we need to examine where Apple is coming from. Steve Jobs famously launched the iPod Touch without knowing what it was going to be used for. Apple learned retroactively that users saw it as a gaming device and as the lowest cost option to access the App Store. Ever since Sony's PSP started shipping a browser in late 2005, unrestricted Internet access on portable devices has been controversial. Sony and Nintendo eventually incorporated web parental controls on gaming consoles like PSP, DS, Wii and PlayStation. So it makes absolute sense that Apple would follow suit and build in parental control restrictions on its own gaming machine - the iPod Touch - that are just as effective. No surprise there.

The second reason to consider banning inappropriate content is that the iPod Touch is being adopted by schools as a learning tool in the classroom. If you don't believe that the iPod Touch and now the iPad can fundamentally change the education process in this country, it may help to hear it from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Just listen to what Travis Allen, founder of the non-profit iSchoolInitiative, and until recently a high school student, has to say on this matter.

Incidentally, I had the good fortune to visit Comal Independent School District and Jim Ned Independent School District, where students use the iPod Touch as part of their curriculum, and I was blown away by what I saw there. At, we are proud to be involved in several such programs where our software makes a real difference in kids' lives by giving them protected access to web content. Watch this video where one of the teachers was very vocal about why it is important to manage the content available on the device.

As the leading provider of Internet filtering and parental controls for the iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone, we have some insight into parents' opinion on this issue as well. See this discussion on our forum. And this. And this. Parents are telling us every single day that Apple is not doing enough!

The iPod Touch and iPad are game machines for kids, learning tools for schools, and targeted squarely at parents. So, Apple had no choice but to position itself as the gate-keeper to the App Store, offer restrictions on downloadable content, and allow third-party developers like to provide safe access to the web on iPhone OS-powered devices. Steve is pretty happy to let those who disagree go to a "competitor." Not only is this the politically correct side to be on, it also just makes solid business sense!

Now Steve, if you happen to read this, we need to talk. I have a laundry list of harshly worded complaints, nicely put requests, and how-could-Apple-even-allow-that stories to share, you know.