Is Apple Ready to Allow Porn in the App Store?

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Playboy is coming to the iPad in March. That's nothing special: A lot of magazines are finding new ways to get their content to consumers. They're using mobile sites optimized for on-the-go readers, iPhone and Android applications and, yes, iPad apps. What is worth noting, though, is that Hugh Hefner, the founder and face of Playboy who recently spent in excess of $200 million to buy back shares of the company and take it private, sent out a tweet late last night that his magazine will be uncensored.

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If that's true -- and Playboy takes the form of a traditional iPad application and not just a website optimized for browsing on the iPad -- there must be more to the story. Apple is notorious for ferreting out and removing any apps that break a strict set of rules (no porn, no Java, no gambling, no file-sharing, no drugs, etc. -- see a full list at ReadWriteWeb). Does Hefner have a special deal with Apple? Is the company preparing to allow more scandalous content in its app stores? Maybe Tim Cook, the company's COO who is overseeing day-to-day operations while Steve Jobs is out on medical leave was a proponent of iBoobs, the iPhone application that first brought mass attention to Apple's strict policies.

Created by Mystic Game Development of Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 2008, iBoobs was a simple application that featured a pair of covered breasts -- no nudity! -- that jiggled around the screen when the iPhone's internal accelerometer was upset. Apple's decision to remove the application ("If you believe that you can make the necessary changes so that iBoobs does not violate the iPhone SDK Agreement we encourage you to do so," the company reportedly told the developer) probably caused a bigger stir than the application would have if left alone.

It's been more than two years since that scandal. Is Apple ready to reconsider? I contacted the company's media department last night with questions about the Playboy application, but have yet to hear back. If I do, this post will be updated. In the meantime, bloggers are weighing in.

Mashable's Stan Schroeder wrote that it makes sense for Playboy to release an uncensored application "as we doubt many would be ready to pay for a watered-down version of the magazine." But that's not true. Playboy already has a popular iPhone application that doesn't feature any full-frontal nudity. People, it turns out, really do read the magazine for the articles.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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