Could Apple's App Scrutiny Drive Developers To Droid?

Last week, Apple decided to remove any applications it viewed as overtly sexual from its iPhone app store. This is not the first time Apple has denied developers' apps purely at its discretion. In fact, it's exercised its right to do so on numerous occasions. Some developers are getting frustrated. But luckily, there's another mobile phone platform willing to welcome most of them with open arms: Google's Android.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple's latest wave of app removals could encourage developers to begin spending more time focusing on creating applications for Google's Android operating system instead. I think that makes sense -- especially given Google's apparent willingness to embrace those who Apple has shunned. From WSJ:

In a statement, Google made it clear it wants to position itself as an alternative to Apple, although it stopped short of naming its competitor. "We want to reduce friction and remove barriers that make it difficult for developers to make apps available to users," the company said.

But perhaps this latest move by Apple to rid the iPhone of risqué apps is specific: unless you're planning on producing an app with scantily clad men or women, you should be fine, right? Maybe, maybe not. The logic behind Apple's decision to remove these apps is a little unclear -- at least to me.

I mean the motivation is clear: Apple doesn't want to expose children to sexual content. Fair enough. But then, why hasn't it also removed its Safari Internet application or created a filter that doesn't allow users to visit web sites that can offer even more objectionable content? Is it really any more difficult for a minor to type "sex" in the application store search field than in the Google search field in Safari?

And that's why developers might be right to worry -- the move just doesn't make much sense. Apple seems more content to just limit its app availability than to meaningfully tackle a problem. Why not, instead, create a software update that includes a parental control function to forbid an iPhone user from downloading overtly sexual applications?

The iPhone is successful for a multitude of reasons, but as an iPhone user myself, I can say that its app store is easily my favorite feature. The diversity and innovation that developers provide to the iPhone's capabilities set it apart from its competitors. That advantage will remain distinct in the short-term, but eventually other mobile platforms will catch up. Does Apple really want to speed up that process by continuing to frustrate developers?