Playboy forced to cover up for anti-porn Jobs

Apple and Playboy are rather unlikely bedfellows. Hugh Hefner, who runs America's sauciest publishing house, has made billions from selling sex and – up until January at least – continued to enjoy the company of three live-in lovers whose combined ages were still two decades younger than his 84 years.

Other than being exceedingly rich, Apple's founder Steve Jobs couldn't be more different. The 55-year-old rarely dresses in anything more outrageous than a black polo neck, and has been married to his wife Laurene since 1991. He is vehemently anti-porn and insists his iPhone and iPads be free of any applications that could be deemed remotely amoral.

Yet Playboy is about to release a high definition edition of its magazine for the iPad where readers can flick through the pages of the latest edition with a swish of their finger.

But don't expect any of the nudity for which Playboy magazine is renowned.

Playboy is censoring its output, and has promised to cover up its cover girls for the iPad edition to comply with Apple's strict no-nudity policy. The decision has led to an outcry on web forums and renewed the debate over how much editorial control Apple wields through its App Store.

A review of the new app by MinOnline found that the App Store will charge $4.99 [£3.20], the same as Playboy's cover price, for a version which contains none of the nudity that makes Playboy so popular.

"To be sure, Playboy has put in almost all of the issue, but it leaves out most of the pictorials and cartoons as well as anything more than attractive headshots of its Playmate of the Month," the review read.

Given the all pervasiveness of porn on the internet – it is estimated that 12 per cent of all web pages are pornographic – Apple is an overwhelmingly smut-free zone. Only applications that have been approved by Apple can be sold by the company's App Store which retains a policy of refusing anything that is "obscene, pornographic, or defamatory."

There is, of course, little Apple can do to stop people using their iPhone and iPad internet browsers to access porn. No one has yet released any figures as to how much time Apple users spend accessing porn but the wide proliferation of porn sites that are specifically developed for iPhones suggest the demand is there.

In contrast, Apple's main competitor in the smart phone market – Google's Android – has little objection to porn. Unlike Apple, Google allows software developers to create what they like and does not moderate their output. The official Android app store – Android Market – remains a porn-free zone but a number of other sites have sprung up offering dedicated sex apps.

Apple's puritanical streak makes no business sense, but Jobs doesn't seem to mind. "We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone," Jobs wrote to a customer. "Folks who want porn can buy an Android phone."

But with Apple billing itself as the potential saviour of magazines and newspapers, its moral crusading is raising eyebrows within industries that tend to view any form of censorship with horror.

Earlier this year, Apple conducted a moral purge of its App Store even banning content that featured women in bikinis and lingerie. Among the victims was a game called SlideHer, which challenged users to reassemble a photograph of a scantily clad actress. Another, Sexy Scratch Off, showed a woman whose dress can be whisked away with the swipe of a finger, revealing her underwear.

But the censorship drive also ended up targeting well known publishers such as the German newspapers Bild and Stern which ran furious headlines calling Apple the "morality police".

Employees at Dazed and Confused – the uber chic fashion magazine – reportedly nicknamed their iPad version the "Iran Edition" because of how much content they had to keep out, while Apple made further headlines when it banned an e-book reading application because it enabled iPhone users to download and read a version of the Karma Sutra.

In April, the company had to execute an embarrassing U-turn when its censors refused to approve an app that had been developed by Mark Fiore, a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist. Fiore's app featured his regular cartoons for the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle, but Apple decided it broke the rules of the App Store because it satirised people. The decision was reversed after an outcry in the US media.

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