Apple's Phil Schiller Explains Sex-related App Store Purging

Apple recently began removing iPhone and iPod touch apps from its App Store that offered sexually suggestive content without any warning or explanation. Now Phil Schiller, the company's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, is saying customer complaints were behind the move.

"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," Mr. Schiller told the New York Times.

Apparently the number of apps "containing very objectionable content" was on the rise, and a vocal group of App Store shoppers wasn't happy with what they were seeing.

So far, apps that show women in bikinis or underwear, or apps that let users undress women have been removed from the App Store, but not every app that fits in that category. Sports Illustrated, for example, offers an app showing women in bikinis, and Playboy offers an app that shows women in lingerie. Both are still available at the App Store.

"The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format," Mr. Schiller said.

That explanation, however, may not be enough to appease developers with apps that have been pulled from the App Store. All 50 apps from On the Go Girls have been pulled, and like other companies in the same position, that means lost revenue.

"It's very hard to go from making a good living to zero. This goes farther than sexy content," On the Go Girls co-president, Fred Clarke, said. "For developers, how do you know you aren't going to invest thousands into a business only to find out one day you've been cut off?"

While developers might feel jilted by Apple, Mr. Schiller says the company is interested in them -- at least to a degree. "We obviously care about developers, but in the end have to put the needs of the kids and parents first," he said.

Despite past complaints that Apple's guidelines for iPhone and iPod touch app developers are murky, this new batch of bumped apps seems to show that little has changed. In this case, developers followed Apple's rules and passed the company's screening process, and ultimately saw their apps pulled without any warning.

In the end it appears that Apple is looking out for itself -- potentially at the expense of the developers that write apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. "Apple has a brand to maintain," commented Piper Jaffray tech analyst Gene Munster. "And the bottom line is they want that image to be squeaky clean."