It's a big day for James Joyce: by Apple's standards, Ulysses is more scandalous than Playboy.
Apple will roll out an uncensored Playboy iPad app in March, according to a tweet by Hugh Hefner. Archives, as well as new issues, will be made available.
But the news raises a few eyebrows--and not for the usual reasons. Though news of America's favorite softcore porno joining the illustrious ranks of the app store might seem like the tech company is loosening their tie, the move also highlights Apple's history of persistent, often baffling and inconsistent, censorship when it comes to nudity and adult material in its apps.
Most famously, Apple censored an illustrated Ulysses app in an eerie echo of the Modernist blockbuster's own early brush with censorship. They eventually repealed their ban when the cartoonists removed the offending genitalia.
But that episode was just one of a series of censorships on Apple's part. From the Kama Sutra, to the word sperm in Moby Dick, to a Pulitzer prize winning cartoonist, few artists pushing the boundaries of obscenity are safe (though some of Apple's decisions were later reversed).
If the Playboy app is indeed allowed to pass into the walled garden with its fig leaf thrown aside, it will represent a major change of course for Apple. Though there is a pre-existing iPhone app for Playboy which has managed to survive nudity-free, as a marker of the magazine's status as an established publication, the allowance for a full-blown magazine app seems to be a further slip in their moral stance. Not only do app store guidelines still seem to prohibit apps with "overly sexual content", but Steve Jobs himself has noted his desire to see the iWorld as a bunker of "freedom from porn."