Update 4:19 pm: This story has been modified to include reaction from the creator of the card-counting iPhone app.
Since the July 2008 launch of the App Store, Apple has maintained a sort of moral code--a PG-13-type standard, if you will--surrounding the thousands of iPhone and iPod Touch applications available via the service.
That's why, for example, there are no iPhone porn apps, though it is certainly possible to access adult content optimized for the device.
Given that, one would think that Apple wouldn't have given the thumbs-up to an app that, if used in the most logical manner, could get someone arrested, or worse. But with an app called "A Blackjack Card Counter," that's not, in fact, the case.
We've all seen the movies where the hot-shot gambler slips up and finds himself hustled off to a back room where a genial but brutal casino manager calmly breaks a few fingers while issuing a stern warning never to come back. Films like The Cooler, 21, Rounders, Casino and many others have made this kind of scene, even if it's not always about card counting, a staple of our imagination.
Yet card counting--a complex practice that gives practitioners a way to determine the optimal times to bet in blackjack--prevails to this day. And it's not even illegal, though being caught at it is sure to lead to a hasty expulsion from a casino, at best, or even the kind of back-room visit discussed above. What is definitely illegal, however, is the employment of any kind of electronic device that aids players in counting cards.
And that's where "A Blackjack Card Counter," and perhaps a few other iPhone apps come into play.
Earlier this month, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, itself tipped off by the California Bureau of Gambling Control, issued an alert to "all non-restricted licensees and interested parties"--the state's casinos--warning of the emergence of iPhone card counting apps.
"This blackjack card-counting program can be utilized on either the Apple iPhone or the Apple iPod Touch...Once this program is installed on the phone through the iTunes Web site it can make counting cards easy," Nevada Gaming Control Board member Randall Sayre wrote in the alert. "This program can be used in the 'stealth mode.' When the program is used in the 'stealth mode' the screen of the phone will remain shut off, and as long as the user knows where the keys are located, the program can be run effortlessly without detection."
And, as Sayre pointed out, "use of this type of program or possession of a device with this type of program on it--with the intent to use it--in a licensed gaming establishment, is a violation" of the law.
For its part, the makers of "A Blackjack Card Counter," an Australian outfit called Webtopia, couldn't be happier about the attention being paid to its app as a result of its potentially illegal nature.
"Since the Nevada Gaming Control Board warned casinos about 'A Blackjack Card Counter' there's been an unprecedented demand for this app," Webtopia wrote in the tool's official App Store description. "Now you can see what all the fuss (is) about at a very reasonable price." … Read more
Apple has made it clear that South Park must respect its authority.
The company has now twice rejected an iPhone application designed to let iPhone owners watch clips of the long-running show featuring the exploits of Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny. Apple apparently feels that South Park's content is "potentially offensive," according to Boing Boing, and will not allow it onto the App Store.
Once again, Apple's taste-making policies for the App Store leave it in a curious position. The company's decision to ban a book from the App Store for using dirty language, yet … Read more
BARCELONA, Spain--iPhone maker Apple isn't at GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009 along with the rest of the mobile phone industry, but the company's growing success is definitely top of mind for key executives in the mobile market.
The iPhone and Apple's successful App Store got more than a passing mention on Tuesday during a panel moderated by The Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walt Mossberg.
The panel which included three of the most powerful CEOs in the mobile industry--Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, the second largest mobile operator in the U.S.; … Read more
There's a new mobile OS, Windows Mobile 6.5, that's supposed to be friendlier than the notoriously clunky earlier versions. (ZDNet's mobile maven Matthew Miller is still disappointed.)
There's a set of cloud-based services for synchronizing data like contacts and photos. (Although apparently v.1 will not be connected with the Windows Live or Live Mesh platforms or services, so the vision of unified data sync across devices is still a whiteboard drawing as far as Microsoft products and services are concerned.)
There's a marketplace for Windows Mobile apps. There's a brand change--the phones will be called "Windows Phones," although the OS is still "Windows Mobile." (Confused?) Oh, and the company has finally acknowledged that competing in the consumer space is important, a year and a half after CEO Steve Ballmer dismissed the iPhone as a "$500 subsidized item" that had "no chance" of gaining any significant market share.
Assuming that any of this makes you want to run out and buy a Windows Mobile phone, too bad. None of it's available until late this year.
I'll give Microsoft some credit for envisioning and beginning to build a free alternative to Apple's MobileMe service. And the mobile marketplace is a no-brainer. But Monday's announcements just underscore that Microsoft has no answer to the iPhone. … Read more
BARCELONA--Nokia is taking on smartphone rival Apple with its own version of an application store.
On Monday, the world's largest cell phone maker, which has been losing market share at the high end to devices like Apple's iPhone, announced here at the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009 that it will follow Apple and a few other handset makers in launching a virtual storefront where developers can upload applications and consumers can easily download them.
The news of Nokia's Ovi Store is hardly a shock. Several news agencies had reported that the company was expected to announce the store here at MWC.… Read more
BARCELONA--If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Apple's biggest competitors are laying on the love a little thick.
It seems like handset makers aren't just trying to match Apple in terms of developing cool new touch screen devices, but now they're all clamoring to develop their own version of an application storefront, where users can easily discover and download applications for their smartphones and developers can easily create and monetize those apps.
Rumors have been flying around that Nokia, the largest handset maker in the world, will unveil its plans for its own application store … Read more
Updated at 3:45 p.m. PST with correction of Motorola, IBM executives' names.
Even the biggest chip companies churn out their share of flops. But the hype that surrounds these chips is more fascinating than the failures.
It's been almost a year since I posted A brief history of chip hype--and flops (part 1). Consider this Part 2.
Itanium First, I have to revisit Intel's Itanium. Simply because it's still around and still missing production target dates.
The hype: "This design philosophy will one day replace RISC and CISC. It is a gateway into the … Read more
I’m no patent expert, but it’s clear after a little research that patent laws were put into place for two reasons: 1) they want to encourage secretive inventors to stop stashing their cool ideas under a mattress somewhere and make them public and 2) they want to rock the boat. Apple has never been accused of keeping new ideas under wraps, but by securing their new patent for “multifunction” touch technology like pinch, rotation, and swipe, they have certainly rocked the boat. We won’t know how or if the boat will be … Read more
Two related companies are suing Apple over screen rendering technology used in the iPhone and iPod Touch, according to reports.
Picsel Technologies and Picsel Research, based in Glasgow, Scotland, filed a patent-infringement lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Delaware, Dow Jones reported. The suit alleges that Apple is violating a Picsel technology that accelerates the process of updating a device's display.
According to Macworld, the suit is focused on Picsel technology that people use to zoom and pan documents, sites, and images. Apple's devices wouldn't function as fluidly without the technology, alleges Picsel, which wants … Read more