Regular readers know that one of my favourite topics in these parts is Apple and its iron-fisted – and often hypocritical – control over its iPhone/iPad/iPod app store. Generally, the conversation has centred around the company’s holier-than-thou attitude toward porn and the belief that officially preventing such apps somehow makes its products more wholesome.
The BBC reports that U.S. military contractor Raytheon (the same company that invented the microwave oven – see Sex, Bombs and Burgers the book for the full story!) has created an iPhone app that trains soldiers in how to use its Patriot missile system. “Patriot Drill Crew” is a multiple-choice app that refreshes troops’ knowledge of the missile systems. As the Beeb says, “the soldier is presented with a scenario, with three multiple-choice questions to answer. Successfully answer the question and the app moves onto the next step; fail and they get a dressing down from the ‘virtual’ Staff Sergeant.”
Patriot Drill Crew is apparently the first of such apps, with Raytheon planning a whole bunch more.
What’s interesting about the app, and the others that will come, is that it’s not available to the general public over Apple’s app store – it can be installed on an iPhone by invitation only. One must assume Raytheon and the military are doing this with Apple’s blessing, which raises even more questions about how the iPhone maker approves apps. What other side deals is the company cutting with companies, militaries and intelligence agencies?
Apple’s stance against the recent U.S. copyright ruling, which makes it legal to “jailbreak” your iPhone and put whatever apps you want on it, was already pretty strongly anti-consumer. The Raytheon app further exposes Apple’s self-interest – not only does the company not want you to have certain apps (i.e. porn), it also wants to be able to make money from side deals for other certain apps (i.e. military).
Ultimately, though, this whole situation is very American: Apple freaks out about letting people view boobs on its phones, but the company has no problem with its devices being used to teach soldiers how to blow people up. God bless America!