Amazon.com isn’t the only company being targeted by Apple for using the phrase “app store” in conjunction with its Android marketplace. Seattle-based MiKandi, which bills itself as “the world’s first app store for adults,” received its own cease-and-desist request from Apple this month, asking the company to stop using the phrase.
It’s not MiKandi’s first brush with Apple. The company was pushed in the spotlight last year when Apple’s Steve Jobs referred derisively to the fact that there was a “porn store” on Android — referring to MiKandi without using its name.
For the record, the words “app store” still appear on the MiKandi site. Co-founder Jesse Adams says they’ll wait it out, for now, and see how Microsoft’s challenge to Apple’s trademark registration turns out.
“It’s not worth it for us to fight Apple’s legal team over this by ourselves,” he says. “Maybe we can file an amicus brief to Microsoft’s case.”
In an interview with GeekWire this week, Adams and co-founder Jen McEwen talked about their business, the launch of the Amazon Appstore, the effect of Jobs’ remark last year, AT&T’s policies on third-party app stores — and of course, the recent debut of the “controversial” iBoobs app (rejected by both Apple and Google) on the MiKandi marketplace.
Continue reading for excerpts from the conversation …
Q: Most of the stores ban adult apps, including the new Amazon Appstore. It’s an interesting philosophical discussion. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the major platforms restrict pornography?
Jen McEwen: Well, for us, it’s a very good thing. For customers, you can argue differently. What’s important is that companies need to learn to treat customers as adults, and not restrict them out of fear of upsetting another group. That’s the approach we like to take with customers. We want to treat you as adults. That said, it would be bad for business if Amazon decided to sell pornography. But if they decided to do that, it would be a sign that they’re treating customers the way they should be treated, and giving them a choice that they should have.
Jesse Adams: The great thing about Android is that even if Amazon doesn’t want to sell adult content, the Android Marketplace doesn’t want to sell it, at least the platform allows third-party stores to sell more adult experiences. That’s the big difference. Your phone is very personal. It’s going to be the way most adults connect to the world, over any other device very soon. Even if the other app stores start to offer it, developers really choose app stores as partners, not just as an app store operator. There’s other things they’re looking for more than just being able to sell adult content — partners that will promote and market the apps, and not just treat it as a back alleyway store like adult novelty shops were for a very long time.
Q: You guys have been doing this for a while on Android. What is your take on Amazon coming into the marketplace now?
Adams: Overall, I think it’s going to be good. Competition is good. It’s going to improve the quality of apps. I think giving developers more opportunity to sell and make money on all of their hard work is good. Amazon does a really good job of selling products, the whole personalization and recommendation engine. They’re just really good at that. So it will be interesting to see how they do it. Obviously there’s a lot of criticism of the way the Google Android Marketplace does things.
[Previously: Amazon opens its Android 'Appstore,' Apple be damned]
McEwen: It’s healthy for Android. It attracts more developers, more users, and applications.
Adams: The other thing is that we’ve had a lot of problems with AT&T because they don’t allow third-party apps (outside of the Android Marketplace). We get a lot of complaints from customers who are thinking Android is awesome, it’s open, very cool, bought an Android just because they thought they could get adult apps, and they send us an email asking why it doesn’t work, and we have to let them know it’s because AT&T doesn’t allow it. So when Amazon has the exclusive on an app like Angry Birds Rio that everyone loves, AT&T is going to have to reconsider the blocking of third-party apps.
[Editor's Note: We learned today that AT&T is, in fact, planning to make an exception for Amazon's new Appstore, a policy decision that will be all the more important if the company's acquisition of T-Mobile goes through, making AT&T bigger.]
Q: You guys had some interesting news of your own last week, about iBoobs. Here’s my question on that: Is that even porn?
McEwen: (Laughing) You know what? I don’t think so. We work with porn, and that is not porn.
Adams: It’s a fun little app. You never know what people will like. It’s one of those simple, fun apps that really shouldn’t have caused any major issues, but I can understand it. Other app stores are like Disneyland. If you don’t want to have Disneyland on the same street as Vegas, you want to keep them separate, that’s fine. But it’s a fun app. Who doesn’t like boobies? Babies love them, men love them, women love them.
McEwen: It’s so PG-13. You could go to a movie theater and see something worse than that.
Q: You were the focus of a veiled comment from Steve Jobs — he referred to the fact that on Android there is even a porn app store. That was not a good thing in his mind. Was his comment a good or bad thing for you?
McEwen: Oh, that was an awesome thing. We got 10,000 downloads of our app store in 12 hours that day. It was amazing. We couldn’t believe our luck. Also, it made us a conversation starter for the argument between an open OS and a closed OS. We’re the extreme testament of what you can do, and the freedom that you get. We are actually very proud to be part of that.
Adams: That was a great thing. We didn’t want to label ourselves as a “porn app store,” which he did. It’s an adult app store — obviously there’s porn, but you can also find adult language, gambling-type apps.
Q: So do you hold out any hope of ever being on the iPhone?
Adams: No, probably not. We aren’t holding our breath.
McEwen: It would be nice to be on iOS. Last year, it was determined that jailbreaking (devices) is not illegal in the United States, and we get asked that a lot: Now that it’s not illegal, are you going to have a jailbroken app store on iOS? To that we answer, we’re already on his radar, and we know better than to poke a sleeping giant that likes to sue. We’ll let somebody else do that first and see how that goes.
Q: So do you reject apps? Are there things that go too far that are just not appropriate for your store?
McEwen: We do have some guidelines. They’re available on developer.mikandi.com. We don’t have many restrictions, but what we do have are obvious — no child pornography, nothing that promotes pedophilia, things like bestiality, which are illegal in America. … Also very important to us is that if it comes to our attention that an app is selling stolen content, we take that very seriously, too. We work closely with a lot of adult studios, we take piracy very seriously.
Q: What’s ahead for MiKandi?
McEwen: We’re going to be launching our in-app billing API in the coming weeks. We’re in beta-testing right now. Juniper Research released a report recently about monetizing applications, and they said in-app billing model will overtake the traditional pay-per-download model. It’s really how people are consuming content. You have to let them use the app, and once they value it then let them purchase from within. … And then we have plans to localize the app store (to different markets around the world).
Adams: We’re still very focused on Android for this year. We just launched our virtual currency, so a lot of things are tied to that. Providing a lot of ways for users to personalize their experience using the store, around discovery and consumption of adult apps, making that easier. One of the things that we learned is that there are a lot of different niches — very personal content. For example, we’ve got 21,000 different search terms every month. Very, very specific. People are looking for a variety of stuff. We need to be faster and better at matching up the right users with the right developer. … The other issue is just transactions — making it easier, faster and safer to purchase MiKandi Gold (a premium apps offering that launched in November). Being able to offer the best billing options within each region.