Apple’s so-called “ban” on protective films

Numerous Web sites are reporting that Apple is removing protective screen film products from its Apple Stores. An initial posting from iLounge states: “Apple has banned protective screen film from its retail and online stores, a policy that will affect both cases and individual film packages beginning in May.”

A few quick reactions to this news:

• It’s not a “ban”

Apple is choosing to remove these products from its Stores. This is not a ban any more than if Apple decided it no longer wanted to carry Canon printers in its Stores. In such a case, you wouldn’t say that Canon had been “banned” from the Apple Store (at least I wouldn’t).

Apple is entitled to select what products it wishes to offer, especially in the limited space of its retail stores. As the “mother ship” of all Apple-related products, one could argue that there should be a moral obligation for Apple to be appear “fair and reasonable” to third-parties in its decisions. But ultimately it is for Apple to decide.

• There may be a good reason for Apple’s decision

These products are notoriously difficult to “install.” Frequently, you wind up with air bubbles or dust specks under the film. This, in turn, could lead to numerous dissatisfied customers who return the product, causing unwanted and unneeded headaches for Apple.

Added to this is that the “oleophobic” coating on Apple’s latest products make such films less needed (although not entirely without value). It’s a toss-up. Personally, I no longer use these films. But I know others who swear by them.

• There may be a bad reason for Apple’s decision

These are among the most popular of iPhone and iPod accessories. Many people coming to Apple Stores will want to buy these products. Apple is losing sales here. Even if they don’t want to encourage people to use them, this doesn’t mean Apple needs to stop offering the products altogether.

There is speculation that this decision somehow relates to the iPad and Apple wanting to actively discourage the use of such films on the new device. Perhaps. Regardless, as is now becoming far-too-typical, Apple is taking a heavy-handed approach where perhaps a lighter touch would have worked better.

• Either way, it’s not comparable to Apple’s App Store policies

In prior entries here at Slanted Viewpoint (and elsewhere), I have strongly argued against Apple’s decisions regarding removing or “banning” certain apps from the App Store. On the surface, it may seem that this latest move regarding protective films falls into the same category. It doesn’t.

Although the Apple Store may be a significant source of revenue for these products, manufacturers are free to offer the products elsewhere — which they will certainly do. You’ll be able to get them at Target, Best Buy, whatever — as well as at Amazon and an assortment of other online sites.

The same is not true for the App Store. If your app is not permitted in the App Store, there is no other place to go. That is why I continue to assert that special rules should apply to the App Store (or at least to how apps may be installed on iPhone OS devices) and why my reactions to Apple’s decisions regarding the App Store are much harsher than in this case of protective films.

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