Playboy App Won't Open Floodgates for Porn on iPad

iPad Playboy

We've long suspected that one secret to major financial success on the iPad is pornography, but Steve Jobs has always firmly vetoed any sort of explicit content. With the news that Playboy is coming to the iPad in an uncensored version in March, debate about the matter is heated. But it doesn't mean porn is coming.

In early 2009 we speculated that eventually Apple would have to capitulate on its fairly strict ban on XXX apps inside the iTunes App Store, for a number of reasons--but mainly because the potential income from more highly sexualized content couldn't be ignored. Pornography has been a driver for change in numerous industries, so there's no reason to think it couldn't be a tool for advancing the state of the art in iPad magazine apps either.

Apple has slowly been allowing apps into the App Store that have expanded its more "adult" content--there are any number of apps suggesting sexual positions, and now there are also several "massage" apps that control the iPhone's vibration alert motor to "relieve stress." Back in December 2010 the BigStar app even snuck pornographic movie content into the App Store, with explicit adult movies as part of its stable of streamed movies.

But it's news, confirmed directly by Hugh Hefner himself via his verified Twitter account, that Playboy is coming as an iPad app in March that has many folk wondering if Apple's finally given in. Or more specifically, if Steve Jobs himself has given in--since it's clear the no-sexed-up-pixels ban has been strongly directed by Steve's own wishes ("buy an Android phone" if you want porn he once retorted).

The timing is interesting for a number of different reasons. Playboy has recently released an external hard drive that contains its entire back archive in digital form, in encrypted format and viewable only through a dedicated reader app. This represents a significant body of work for Playboy's team, and it would be a perfect database to use to craft a full-featured iPad magazine app.

Then we have Monday's surprising news about Steve Jobs's new medical leave of absence. Hefner tweeted the news late yesterday, just a day after we learned Jobs was probably going to be away for about six months, effective immediately. Is it coincidence that the architect of Apple's strict no-porn policy is away on leave at this moment? It certainly allows Apple to adjust its internal policy on the matter of explicit content with Jobs conveniently distanced from any controversy that may ensue from conservative commenters.

Then there's that March date that Hugh mentioned. We know that a new version of iOS has recently been seeded to Apple's developer community for testing, which potentially places its public release date a handful of weeks away when any wrinkles have been discovered and patched. That's around March, possibly about the time a new iPad may arrive (at the earliest). A new device and a tweak to Apple's policy and App Licensing agreement (permitting explicit content) could almost certainly arrive all at once.

But here's the thing, though Hef revealed this news way ahead of time and coincidentally just after Steve Jobs revealed he was off on leave, it doesn't open the floodgates to fully explicit porn on the iOS platforms. Steve was almost definitely involved in the process somehow, because Playboy represents some serious cash with millions of subscribers all around the globe (and we know Apple's been very hands-on with big name magazine and newspaper apps that are coming to the iPad in "value-added" versions).

But though Playboy may show more flesh and curves than, say, the Suicide Girls app--which was banned even though it all it showed were scantily clad women--it's not hardcore pornography. We can in fact see the introduction of the app as part of the same gentle progression toward sexual content that has been happening in the App Store, blessed by Steve Jobs himself.

And there's one big saving grace for the Playboy app: Though it does indeed access explicit content from Playboy's digitized archives, the paid app doesn't actually "contain" any of the content itself--it shoots you out to a secure-access website, where the actual text and imagery are stored. You can argue this is a technicality, since for all intents and purposes it means an explicit Playboy app will in fact exist...it's just a code-neutered one that adheres to Apple's current guidelines by gulping in its sexy material from elsewhere (similar to the way Google Maps downloads its map imagery on the fly, for example, even though you just think of it as the Maps App). A "censored" app is apparently in the works too, and in the future a full-on in-app Playboy edition will probably exist at some point--just not now.

So it's a good bet that we won't be seeing an "XXX" category popping up in iTunes any time soon.

To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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2 Comments

  • Coaster

    The link I followed to this story was entitled "Playboy does not equal porn on the iPad". From what I understand, Playboy has had a hard time equalling porn for quite some time.

  • John Doe

    Why is it that you guys used a Mexican Playboy Front page for this Article? The US version was banned for your use or what?