It's not that my relationship with Apple has been without its shaky moments before, of course. You would expect rocky patches in over a quarter century of being together. We've managed to survive Steve I, Lisa, John, Jean-Louis, and Newton. We quickly agreed to put the episode with "the luggable" behind us, never to speak of it again. And, we've agreed to disagree on the "to license or not to license" question.
The past few weeks have been a bit much, however. Apple's pre-occupation with taking out Adobe has the ring of a spurned lover on The Jerry Springer Show. It makes us who are fans of both companies feel like we're watching our best friends' marriage break up in front of us. Will we still be able to be friends with both, or will we ultimately have to pick sides?
But, there is a more pernicious worm eating it's way toward Apple's core. Censorship.
In order to gain "shelf space" within the closed system that is iTunes, which is the only content distribution platform available for Apple devices, a developer must submit an app for review - and approval. Or rejection. The review process itself is mysterious, as are the criteria for evaluating an app. Apple's interest seemed to be in ensuring technical quality, which was great; Apple could put an app through its paces far more rigorously than a garage-based developer ever could. Everybody wins.
Then, Apple started getting interested in the content of apps. First, they were getting too many "pull my finger" submissions. Then, they announced they would not sell or rent R- or X-rated movies. Next, they started quietly eliminating apps that were already selling on iTunes, either because they contained offensive content (says who? using what standards?) or were developed using unauthorized development tools (read, Adobe tools).
This week was, for me, the pièce de résistance. Louisa Hearn reported in the Sidney Morning Herald that Ellen Degeneres had made a spoof iPhone ad wherein she lampooned her own texting inabilities. (Watch it. It's very funny. You'll think you're watching me, without the cursing.)
Apple's corporate feelings got hurt, and they insisted that she apologize to them on air. AND SHE DID!
What kind of corporate-backed, ham-handed threats must Apple have made that would convince Ellen Degeneres both to apologize and to endorse Apple and the iPhone? What would compel Ellen to ignore her own free speech rights? Why did she feel obliged to submit to their demands?
Apple, and its astonishing CEO, Steve Jobs, continue to make masterful contributions to technology and culture. But that doesn't give them the right to squelch other corporate citizens - nor does it excuse them when they bully others who might make a joke at their expense.
Grow up, Apple. Enfant terrible just isn't cute anymore.