Last week, I argued in the Pocket Gamer Report that Apple's dominance in the market has led to the company behaving in imperious and unethical ways. The examples I used were the censure it directed at developers who dare to speak out about the problem of iPhone piracy, and the general opacity of the approval process.
Nobody likes a bully, I said, and this principle has been demonstrated in at least two separate incidents this week. Firstly, the hitherto off-the-record animosity towards Tim Langdell, the litigious and much-maligned owner of the copyright for the word 'edge' in a video game context, finally culminated in an outburst of editorial contumely; and secondly, the sequence of events surrounding the repeated rejection of dictionary app Ninjawords came to light thanks to an email interview on Daring Fireball.
The question is, has bullying taken place in either case, or are our sympathies so weighted in favour of perceived underdogs that we're inclined to cry 'foul!' without properly establishing whether a foul has been committed? Maybe Apple and Langdell aren't the bad guys: maybe we are, for decrying them so hastily.
Let's look at Apple's case first. Earlier this week, some very leading headlines started to appear amongst my various RSS feeds, most of them along the lines of, "Apple censors dictionary." Very few sites used 'Ninjawords' in the title, choosing instead to focus on the theme rather than the specifics of the story. The omission created a general sense that it was something beyond a single app that Apple had failed to approve: it was language itself.
On the surface, Apple had acted in a ludicrous fashion, going considerably further in its sanitation efforts than any school library or bookshop, at both of which places a person too young to legally purchase pornography can pass a happy afternoon looking up words like 'intercourse,' 'mammary,' and 'cunt.'
Apple senior Vice President Phil Schiller responded personally to Daring Fireball's John Gruber to give Apple's side of what had become a big and more or less scandalous story. "Apple did not censor the content in this developer's application and Apple did not reject this developer's application for including references to common swear words," he said.
Schiller went on to point out that there are several dictionary apps already on the App Store that allow users to look up words like 'fuck,' and 'cunt,' which counters the argument that Apple won't approve such apps on principle (although it's worth noting that Ninjawords developer Matchstick Software made exactly the same point in the original Daring Fireball article to illustrate Apple's capriciousness.)