Is Apple's new sex ban a ploy to win educators over to the iPad?

So we’re expected to believe that the high priests of the Apple App Store magically woke up one morning after two years and suddenly decided that ‘T-and-A’ apps weren’t okay?

That’s what Apple’s head of worldwide product marketing would like us to believe after an interview with The New York Times.

Phil Schiller said the company pulled sexual apps after complaints by women and parents. He tried to fudge the answer on why Wobble iBoobs couldn’t pass muster but Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit app did, saying: “The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format.”

So what gives? Why is Apple playing the histrionic control freak once again?

We think there’s a more serious business rationale at play. One of the more plausible reasons is Apple’s desire to mass-market the iPad into the classroom.

The iPad occupies an awkward position that no other device manufacturer has been able to tap. It’s not a phone, but not yet a laptop. However, educational technology offers the iPad its most obvious initial market, and one that could top $61.9 billion in 2013, according to market research firm Compass Intelligence.

Starting at $499, it’s cheap enough that school districts and colleges could either purchase it in bulk or push parents to buy it for use in the classroom. It could offer an immersive learning experience beating out the traditional textbook at a lower cost spread out over several years and book titles. (That’s a prospect that has lured Apple veterans like Matt MacInnis to leave the company and found an iPad textbook startup called Inkling.)

Bringing the iPad into the classroom means bringing it into family homes and accelerating adoption among mainstream users, not just technophiles. And Kaching! That would mean a lot more App Store sales.

But what would it take to get the iPad and the App Store there? Educators and parents would have to consider it safe for children. It couldn’t provide children with access to violent or sexual content and it shouldn’t be a distraction during class. (Suddenly, the iPad’s lack of multi-tasking also makes a lot more sense in this context.) Perhaps Apple has decided that wobbly boob apps are worth the sacrifice if it can push its mobile products into the classroom and family room.

Titillating apps from brands like Sports Illustrated get to stay because the magazine is owned by Time Warner, which also happens to own HBO, Warner Bros., CNN, and a whole host of other content brands that — you guessed it — would make for some pretty sweet stuff on the iPad.


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