Michelle Obama Search Controversy & What Apple Could Learn From Google

Michelle Obama Google Image

News broke yesterday about a controversial image that turns up at the top of Google’s search results when you type in the name of the First Lady of the United States. The image in question is a caricature of Michelle Obama that is crude and disrespectful, to say the least. However, what is more notable than the image itself is the way Google has handled the situation, and how Apple could learn from the search giant with regards to controversial content in the iTunes App Store.

Google Says ‘No’ to Censorship

Google will not remove the offensive image from its search results. Why? “It’s offensive to many people, but that alone is not a reason to remove it from our search index,” Google Inc. spokesman Scott Rubin said Tuesday, according to the LA Times.

That’s right. Google recognizes that it cannot police the Internet, so it will not remove the distasteful image of Michelle Obama, or any other distasteful image, unless it is illegal, against Google guidelines, or a threat to someone’s life or safety. Instead, Google has placed a house advertisement above the search results for the image and explained their position in a letter.

“We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google [but] … we have, in general, a bias toward free speech.”

What Could Apple Learn from Google?

I agree with Google on this one. Although the caricature of Michelle is tasteless, Google is not in any position to judge its appropriateness. Google knows it is not the moral police, so it leaves search engine rankings up to its algorithms. They take the same approach to the Android Market, which they do not police either.

Now, compare Google to Apple in a similar situation: When a tasteless or offensive iPhone app turns up on the App Store waiting list, what does Apple do? They reject it.

As a result, iPhone developers and users are left infuriated with heinous App Store approval policies. We point out the hypocrisy of rejecting one app, but including a similar one. We accuse Apple of censorship and overbearing behavior. We abandon Apple’s iPhone and adopt Google’s Android.

There are many compelling reasons for Apple to reform its App Store approval process and do away with content policing. As more and more apps flood the App Store, determining which are inappropriate will become increasingly difficult, and increasingly expensive. App Store reform is in the best interests of iPhone users, iPhone developers, and Apple.

Do You Agree?

Was Google right to leave the controversial First Lady caricature in place? Should Apple learn from the search engine and adopt a similar, hands-off approach to the App Store? What do you think?

Update: The offensive image has been removed, not by Google, but by the website that had hosted it.

XKCD “iPhone or Droid” Comic Takes a Jab at iPhone

XKCD, the online “webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language” has taken a jab at the iPhone in today’s comic “iPhone or Droid.”

Click to enlarge:
XKCD Comic: Droid vs iPhone

“iPhone or Droid” XKCD comic

Girl: Well, it depends what you want. The iPhone wins on speed and polish, but the droid has that gorgeous screen and physical keyboard.

Boy: What if I want something more than the pale facsimile of fulfilment brought by a parade of ever-fancier toys? To spend my life restlessly producing instead of sedately consuming? Is there an app for that?

Girl: Yeah, on both. Wait, no, looks like it was rejected from the iPhone store.

Boy: Droid it is, then.

The comic knocks the iPhone, calling it a flashy device for media-hungry children, while the Droid is presented as the more pragmatic choice with its “gorgeous screen and physical keyboard.” I got a kick out of the allusion to Apple’s ridiculous App Store approval process.

This comic arrives in the middle of the saga between iPhone and Droid, Verizon’s popular new Google Android phone. So what do you think? iPhone or Droid?

P.S. Don’t forget to visit the “iPhone or Droid” comic on the XKCD site and hover your mouse over the image to see the hidden message.

The Android Army: Will Google’s Mobile Phone Army Crush Apple’s iPhone?

There have been heaps of hype over the launch of Verizon’s Droid mobile phone, which is made by Motorola and powered by Google’s Android 2.0 mobile operating system.

Droid made its debut via a viral Verizon ad that pointed out all the things the iPhone “iDoesn’t” do.

Verizon’s Droid Ad

The Droid ad campaign drew eyes, despite some of the Verizon ad’s questionable claims. The mighty Google even helped Verizon publicize its phone by placing a Droid ad on the Google home page. And apparently, the Droid launch last week caused (some) lines at Verizon stores.

Will Droid Outsell iPhone?

So, is the Droid an “iPhone killer,” as the iPhone doomsayers portend?

Verizon Droid

Doubtful. Yes, Verizon’s Droid is impressive, but the Droid itself is not compelling or innovative enough to cause a storm of sales that could match Apple’s unprecedented iPhone sales. Droid is cool, but it’s no game changer.

Nevertheless, given the prominence of the Droid ad campaign and the popularity of Google’s new Android 2.0 mobile operating system, it is likely that Droid will cause a dent in what has for the last year been a smartphone market dominated by Apple.

What’s more important is that Droid will soon be joined by an army of mobile phones powered by the Android mobile OS.

Verizon’s Droid: One Soldier in an Army of Androids

Droid itself can’t take down iPhone. But it can gnaw at Apple along with the army of Android piranhas that will meddle into the marketplace in the coming months.

The Android Army

Droid is the beginning of the “Android army” phenomenon that no one is talking about yet. If you don’t recall, Google’s Android mobile phone software is open source, meaning any carrier can use it on any hardware. And that is the power of Google’s Android.

Think about it. The Droid is a collaborative effort between Verizon (the carrier), Motorola (the hardware maker) and Google (the software provider). There are infinite possibilities for collaboration on Android phones, while iPhone in the US is backed by just two companies, Apple and AT&T.

Collectively, the Android Army will possess the power — and market share — needed to seriously compete with Apple’s iPhone. If you don’t like iPhone, you don’t buy iPhone. If you don’t like Droid, you can still buy some other Android-powered phone. That scenario does not play well for Apple.

And while many people point to the iPhone App Store as proof of iPhone’s permanence in the marketplace, Google’s Android Market contains third-party apps that are usable across Android mobile phones, while iPhone apps are usable on iPhone only.

When Google unveiled Android in November of 2007, I argued that Android would present serious competition for Apple’s iPhone, but I did not consider the potential of the Android army that is in the works.

How Will iPhone Compete With the Android Army?

Steve Jobs

Can Apple singlehandedly fight off an army of mobile phone giants backed by Google, while iPhone remains bound to the immensely unpopular AT&T?

I don’t think even Steve Jobs, who was recently named CEO of the Decade by Fortune, can fend off the approaching Android army and maintain iPhone’s dominance of the smartphone market.

Apple better wake up and think about a new strategy, because it’s about to face a mighty competitor in Android.

What Do You Think?

Will the future see a smartphone space that is no longer defined by iPhone and BlackBerry? Will the Android army take down iPhone? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Would Apple Ban a Google Audio iPhone App?

Tech Crunch reports that Google will soon launch a music service, which may be called Google Audio.

Google Audio for iPhone

The question for us iPhone users is: Will Google attempt to launch a Google Audio iPhone app, and if so, will Google Audio for iPhone go the way of Google Voice?

Remember when Google submitted its Google Voice iPhone app to the App Store last July? Apple banned the app, citing “duplicate features that come with the iPhone,” because Google Voice would create competition for AT&T’s calling & SMS services. Would a Google Audio iPhone app be banned for competing with iPod and the iTunes Store?

What Will a Google Voice iPhone App Look Like?

We don’t yet know what Google Voice will look like, or what it will do. But if Google’s history of innovation is any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is somehow a game-changer. And that could be bad news for Apple.

After all, iTunes is by far the leader in music downloads. Any competition from Google in the market for online music would certainly be unwanted.

Of course, there’s already a Pandora iPhone app that lets you stream music and bypass the iPod, but Pandora doesn’t give you on-demand access to specific songs. Google Audio will presumably offer music downloads. What if a Google Audio iPhone app let you download songs to the app itself?

Could a Google Audio iPhone app make iTunes irrelevant? If so, can we expect Apple to ban Google Audio from iPhone? What do you think?

Google Fast Flip for iPhone [Review]

Google Fast Flip for iPhone

Google today announced Fast Flip, a news-browsing service intended to replicate the feel of a paper magazine or newspaper. Fast Flip also has an iPhone version, which is automatically activated when you browse to Fast Flip on your iPhone at http://fastflip.googlelabs.com.

Fast Flip for iPhone lets you choose a category and then flip through stories, essentially screenshots of web sites, as if you were flipping actual pages. To turn a page, just swipe your finger left or right to go to the next or previous story.

Google Fast Flip for iPhone

You can flip through stories from a single source, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post or Fast Company; or from a single category, like Politics, Business, U.S. or World. Fast Flip also has Recent, Headlines and Most Viewed topics.

Perhaps the Fast Flip function that has the most potential but needs the most work is Search. Ideally, a keyword search should turn up relevant stories to flip through, but as of this writing, searching for “fast flip” yields only 1 result, and a search for “iPhone 3.1” yields only 2, even though both these terms turn up many stories in Google News.

Is Google Fast Flip the Next Big Thing?

Is Google Fast Flip something I see myself using instead of traditional news aggregators? Not sure. But what sets Fast Flip apart from other news sources, like Google News or Regator, is its visual format and the way you can flip through news stories similar to how you browse through albums in iPhone’s Cover Flow.

What Do You Think?

Have you used Google Fast Flip on your iPhone? Do you think it will revolutionize the way we browse news or is it a failed experiment? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

How to Sync Your Google Calendar With Your iPhone Calendar

Want to sync your Google Calendar with iPhone’s native calendar? I just figured out how to do this myself using Google Sync and Microsoft Exchange, and I’m looking forward to having access to my schedule from multiple platforms.

To sync your Google Calendar with your iPhone calendar, follow these steps from the Google Sync service.

Now that my Google Calendar is linked to my iPhone calendar, I can add events on my phone or at http://calendar.google.com and the two calendars sync up.

Some Limitations

A major limitation of this method of syncing your Google Calendar to your iPhone calendar is that Google Sync for iPhone seems to only support syncing your primary Google Calendar to your iPhone calendar. My secondary Google Calendars do not show up in my iPhone calendar. I have not solved this problem, although this post at the Apple support forums looks like it might work.

Another possible annoyance is that when you first setup the Google Sync service, events that are already listed in your iPhone calendar will not be added to your Google Calendar. However, after Google Sync is set up, events added to either calendar will show show up on the other calendar.

Got any tips?

Do you sync your Google Calendar(s) to your iPhone calendar? How does your iPhone help you stay organized? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.