Oh dear—this isn't going to end well, and it's a shame. Apple, which usually enjoys a rosy-tinted PR glow, has soured its image by censoring iPhone apps that relate to the Dalai Lama in China. Is this the cost of doing business in China?
Apple's entry into the potentially lucrative Chinese mobile phone market was long anticipated both inside and outside the company, and the negotiations themselves seem to have matched the Great Wall itself in sheer complexity and length. Even after the launch, there was concern about how well things were going—but the sales figures of the device have clearly picked up a lot now.
But of course, doing business inside one of the World's closed-minded nations—one that regularly censors the Net and even shuts off access to foreign social networking sites because of its "polluting" effects (read: truthfully newsworthy)—is never going to be easy. To get permission to do business there, you have to kowtow to the Government's point of view. A lot. Even when that point of view is, to us outside the nation, almost criminally insane.
Hence the censorship of apps that mention the Dalai Lama. Never mind how much you might think of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner as a calm, rational, happy and enlightened soul: In China he's a dissident, a figure for fomenting political dissent. Hence Apple has to agree to censor apps that pertain to the little guy.
Nasty? Yes. Evil? Possibly. Representative of Apple completely giving in to Chinese draconian measures? No. Because the company is simply following the rules that everyone—Google, Yahoo, and so on—are all following too. And it's not voluntarily doing so—if it were, it would also have alerted Chinese authorities to any one of a number of apps among the thousands that exist that let users circumvent censorship. Like those that link to YouTube content, which is otherwise banned. Or those that act as indirect gateways to social networking sites that are subject to censorship and lock-downs. China's such a huge business opportunity it can't be ignored, despite the inherent moral and ethical issues.
Of course the Chinese are unlikely to be getting the sort of Government 2.0 apps that are sweeping smartphones here—the ones that let you send in a pic of a pothole in a road, or see where local federal cash spends are occurring. And that's a shame. Though there's always a jailbreak route to a "Seen an example of government oppression? Send in a pic!"