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Why is Apple taking away my iPhone pornography?

Well, not mine of course. But the blogosphere is up in arms today because  Apple is purging the app store of “over 5,000 boobs, babes and bikini apps.” Me? I can truly and honestly tell you with a straight face that I’ve never purchased or downloaded one of those apps. So you can call me a prude, if you like.

What’s more, it’s Apple’s store. We don’t get angry because WholeFoods doesn’t sell skin mags, do we? That wouldn’t be all that rational. If we want to buy a skin mag, we go to the store where they sell skin mags. And we still buy our organic apples — heh — at WholeFoods. (Unless we’re boycotting, but that’s another story.)

On the other hand, if you’re Apple, you risk undermining your reputation of providing the most useful mobile device when you suddenly decide entire categories of content are off-limits. It’s possible you lose business that way. Since I’m skeptical that Apple did this out of any abiding moral convictions, though, I’m guessing somebody decided that the best business decision was to erase the apps rather than be seen as a purveyor of smut. There are other mobile phones in the world, after all.

But I like my iPhone. If anybody decides they need to go buy a Nexus One in order to have a richer and more convenient pornography experience, more power to them. Hardly seems worth it to me.

Microsoft phones: Now with Zune and Bing! Ugh.


Microsoft on Monday announced its next-generation mobile operating system Windows Phone 7 Series, which will bring together the Zune multimedia experience and Xbox Live gaming to mobile phones worldwide.

Microsoft did not announce its own phone hardware. However, the software giant is working more closely than it has in the past with manufacturing partners in the design process of their phone hardware. For example, each Windows 7 Series phone will include a dedicated hardware button to access Microsoft’s Bing search tool with one click.

The only remotely appealing part of that equation is the Xbox Live gaming. But Zune and Bing? (Why not snap, crackle and pop?) If consumers really wanted Zune and Bing all that much, wouldn’t we be buying Zunes and using “Bing” as a verb instead of “Google”?

You can’t blame Microsoft for trying, I suppose. But it’s kind of frustrating that all these companies that are trying so hard to be the dominant provider of mobile access to the Internet are trying so damned hard to control — or at least heavily influence — you experience of the Internet. It’s not just Microsoft; Apple’s iPhone is famously restrictive about which apps it will accept; it’s not friendly to companies that provide software which competes with its own. (That’s why no Chrome browser on the phone.) And the Nexus One is Google’s way of letting and getting people to use as much Google as they possibly can.

What I want on my phone is what I have to a greater — but still limited — extent on my laptop: Choice. The MacBook I’m writing on comes with Safari pre-installed. But I’ve barely used Safari, turning first to Firefox and now to Chrome. I have iTunes, yes, but I can buy music from Lala — oh yeah, Apple just bought them — Amazon and eMusic. To the extent that hardware and software companies restrict my abilities to do this stuff on the mobile web, the less pleasant they’re making my experience of the mobile web.

It starts to make you wish for a Linux phone, doesn’t it?

The feminist backlash against the iPad?

Maybe Steve Jobs isn’t so smart. As commenter Jo notes below, the iPad name is … not that cool:

But apparently their entire R&D department, at least the division responsible for naming said product, is completely in the Dark Ages (or possibly the Third Grade) of “No Girls Allowed”. Seriously. ONE woman in those rooms would have said “Don’t name it that”.

Stupid, Apple. Very very stupid.

NPR’s All Tech Considered blog has much the same take, along with a cute Photoshop job:

I’m assuming there were no women on the naming team at Apple. Because, hey, when women hear or read the word pad, we think Kotex and cramps. I wouldn’t mind the name so much if I could buy one at my local CVS.

If your product causes women around the country to immediately question whether women were part of the development process, you might have a problem on your hands. I can’t decide if this is better or worse than the Droid phone advertisements implicitly promising to give you a huge penis.

UPDATE: Via The Clog, we see that this problem was anticipated awhile ago — back with Mad TV was on the air:

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UPDATE 2: One of the Twitter trending topics at this hour (5 pm on the East Coast) is #iTampon. Clearly this is all in my head.

Apple’s Kindle-killing tablet announcement: Will tomorrow be the awesomest day of all time?

Will the Apple tablet help us reach technological nirvana?

Does the picture at your right actually depict the new Apple tablet? Mashable says it might. But until tomorrow — when Apple may or may not (but probably will) unveil its new tablet — this is the best we’ve got.

There’s been so much hype and hope in recent weeks that I’ve got to expect that anything Apple unveils — or doesn’t unveil — would, in the normal universe of things, be a bit of a letdown. After all, what’s an Apple tablet going to do that you can’t already do (smaller) on an iPhone? We’ve already got mobile computing, we’ve already got e-readers and we’ve already  got access to a universe of entertainment and information in machines small enough to fit into our pockets and man purses. Unless Apple does something really amazing with its tablet — something I can’t imagine and that hasn’t been leaked in the pre-reporting — then the tablet can’t possibly be as revolutionary as the iPhone has been. It’ll just be … bigger. And more expensive.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ll probably want a tablet of some sort sooner rather than later. And my tendency in technology is to always go with Apple products. But the picture above doesn’t even look as cool as the HP Tablet that Steve Balmer showed off earlier this month. The HP Tablet will almost certainly be cheaper than Apple’s product, too. If Apple can’t beat Microsoft on features, design or price, what exactly will it have left?

We’re less than a day away from me maybe having to eat my words. But I doubt it.

Waiting on the unicorn: Microsoft unveils HP Tablet that’s not nearly as cool as Apple’s mythical iSlate

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I’m an Apple guy, but I think we’ve gotten to a ridiculous state of affairs here. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer unveiled an HP tablet PC yesterday and it looked a lot like all those many fantasy designs of Apple’s mythical and unconfirmed iSlate. It even appears to function well as an e-reader — though it won’t be a Kindle-killer since it can run Kindle for PC software. And the reaction? One big meh:

Reaction to the as yet unnamed device was somewhat subdued.

“It’s an interesting product in itself but Microsoft could have gone further. It’s not anything new in terms of software and that is what you really need to make a device like this make people want to buy it.

Wait for it…

The lack of enthusiasm for the product was in part due to speculation about what – if anything – Apple may launch.

And there we have it. The tech world has been getting its hopes up for months for a handheld smaller-than-a-laptop bigger-than-a-cellphone multitouch tablet you can use to read books, watch video and play games — and now it’s here. It kinda looks cool. (Yeah, I said it. An HP product looks cool!) But everybody shrugs their shoulders because it’s not nearly as neato and game-changing as their imaginations have led them to believe Apple’s as-yet-unconfirmed iSlate tablet will be.

You know, I’d buy this horse to do my work around the farm, but I’m going to wait and see how much those unicorns cost.

I get the context. Apple does do really cool stuff. Microsoft chases Apple’s tail. And it’s been in the tablet business a decade without making a real splash. And as far as I can tell, there are some unanswered questions about the HP tablet: Cost, when it’s available and whether or not it has wireless capabilities like a Kindle does. Ballmer was clearly trying to pull the rug from underneath Apple’s hype. But he’s actually shown us something. Shouldn’t that count for something instead of being judged against a product we’re not 100 percent sure exists?

The Iranian cyber army, Predator drones and the flaws of technology

If our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan hadn’t already taught us, we’ve learned again that American technical superiority is no guarantee that we can beat our opponents. For example, Twitter was apparently brought down last night by an “Iranian cyber army“:

The group defaced the microblogging site’s home page and brought down the service for a while last night. Users who logged into Twitter, which hasn’t had the best security record throughout its short history, were redirected to another site that had a picture of a green flag and a message that read: “This site has been hacked by Iranian Cyber Army.” CNN reports that the site was down for around an hour. At 2:28 a.m., the company updated its status blog with a message saying that its “DNS records were temporarily compromised but have now been fixed.” As was extensively written about at the time, Twitter played a key role in the protests that followed this summer’s disputed elections in Iran. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington suggests that “if you use the same password on your Twitter account with other accounts, now would be a good time to change your password on those other accounts.”

And, of course, we found out this week that insurgents can hack into the video feeds of American Predator drones trying to take them out:

Officers working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the possibility that Russia and China could intercept video from remotely piloted aircraft five years ago, reports the Wall Street Journal. At the time, the big worry was that the feed from the drones could be intercepted, doctored, and then manipulated so commanders on the ground wouldn’t be able to see what was really going on. But senior members dismissed the concerns as they were more worried about roadside bombs and didn’t think insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan had the technical know-how to carry out the interception.

Which is arrogant on our part, of course.

War, it should go without saying, is an activity done by humans. Americans have tried their hardest to remove our humans from the equation wherever possible — a method of keeping casualties down and reducing the likelihood of opposition at home. But we should never assume that our technology is so advanced that our adversaries — even lowly insurgents in “less-advanced” countries — can’t find a simple low-tech way to undermine it, and pull our humans back into the fray.

Twitter and the Iran protests

There’s been a lot of talk in recent days – much of it on Andrew Sullivan’s blog — about how invaluable Twitter has been in enabing Iran’s protesters to communicate with each other and send news of their situation to the outside word. There’s something to it; heck, even the Obama Administration intervened with Twitter to defer some maintenance so the revolution wouldn’t end with a “fail whale.” Matt Yglesias and Jack Shafer have useful counterarguments to all this: Twitter is a good communications device, but it won’t help a revolution succeed if the regime decides to start using guns.

What’s interesting to me, though, is the way Twitter has made consuming foreign news a truly interactive affair for the American audience. In the last 24 hours or so, I’ve seen tons of people “green” their Twitter avatar in support of the demonstrators. Many have used the #iranelection and #cnnfail hashtags to help facilitate — they think — communication or call media to account for its failures of coverage. Many Twitterers even changed their location to Tehran in order to try to throw the regime’s snoops off the track of real Iranians.

What does all this mean? I have no idea.

But 20 years ago this summer, millions of Americans sat at home on their couches and watched the Tianenmen Square protests and massacre. We felt it deeply. But aside from watching the news and perhaps writing a letter to the editor about our anger, there wasn’t much we did or could do.

American Twitterers, meanwhile, have made a personal investment in the Iranian protests. It’s not a huge investment — Americans aren’t risking anything with their support of the protests — but it is real. Perhaps it’s a fad that will soon be forgotten; that wouldn’t surprise me. But it might also augur a new grassroots American engagement in the world that his simply never been possible until this moment. The possibilities are fascinating.

Kindle 2.0 comes out next month?