Apple sinks to new levels of stupid in South Park App Store row

Ever since the App Store opened for submissions, Apple’s been—and this is perhaps the most charitable description—inconsistent. Although I disagree with the regular statements from Apple’s competition about walled gardens (and Ballmer recently arguing, without a hint of irony, that iPhone is stifling innovation, and if only everyone was using Windows Mobile, they’d have more choice), whoever at Apple is dictating policy regarding App Store submission needs a good swift kick in the nuts.

Apple hit the news when it denied Podcaster entry to the App Store last September. The bizarre argument was that it duplicated functionality of an existing Apple app, but not one on the iPhone—instead, Podcaster wasn’t allowed distribution because, in part, it duplicated functionality in the desktop version of iTunes.

Now, however, Apple has descended to new levels of stupid. In development since last autumn, the South Park app has now been rejected without ceremony. Apple’s reasoning? The content is “potentially offensive”.

In itself, this is understandable. But when you look at the iPhone ‘ecosystem’, the decision is nothing short of batsh*t crazy.

Reason 1: South Park episodes are available to buy in full in the iTunes Store, and they happily play on—you guessed it—an iPhone.

Reason 2: South Park may have plenty of somewhat offensive and puerile moments, but that is at least a veneer over a satirical and cunningly intelligent cartoon. That, however, can’t be said of the slew of boob-jiggle and fart apps that Apple’s happily allowed into the App Store of late. Way to be consistent, Apple!

Reason 3: I’m an adult. No, really. Lots of people who own iPhones are also adults. No, no, it’s actually true. To that extent, it’s a bit rich of Apple to take the ‘offensive’ line with a cartoon that’s shown on television—it’s not like Parker and Stone thought: “You know what? Let’s change South Park, just for iPhone! Its new name shall be Gimp Chainsaw Blood Gouge Sex Death Park!”.

So, Apple, with a slightly edgy but perfectly safe app, let people decide for themselves whether to buy it. After all, I suspect the vast majority of people buying a South Park app are actually going to be South Park fans, and they’ll only take offence if it’s rubbish.

The App Store is undoubtedly iPhone’s killer app, but if Apple keeps indiscriminately knifing apps for no real reason—and high-profile ones at that—it’s going to be iPhone’s killer. It’ll only be so long before rivals start to catch up, and although I’ve no doubt that the Microsoft App Store won’t be as good as Apple’s, it’ll be ‘good enough’ for many. If Apple’s still playing the stupid card when that happens, a whole bunch of people will be yelling “screw you guys,” ditching their iPhones and going elsewhere.