After the Ellen DeGeneres iPhone dust-up, does Apple need to lighten up?

Apple reps apparently contacted Ellen DeGeneres this week, after the talk show host ran a spot poking fun at the Apple iPhone. Maybe it's time for the folks over at Apple HQ to take themselves a little less seriously.

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    The talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was chided by Apple after poking fun at the Apple iPhone. How thin is Apple's skin?
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Call it the Apple omerta.

Earlier this week, Ellen DeGeneres aired a short spot gently poking gentle fun at the Apple iPhone. Emphasis on gentle: The whole of the spot revolved around Ellen's inability to send accurate text messages to her wife on the iPhone's cramped touchscreen keyboard. For iPhone users, familiar with the perils of the iPhone text format, it was worth a chuckle. For Apple, it was no laughing matter.

On yesterday's episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Ellen explained to viewers that she had been contacted by worried brass at Apple HQ. "They thought that I made it look like the iPhone was hard to use," she explained. And then quickly – with a dash of humor – she retracted her criticism of the iPhone. "It's not hard to use," she said. "I love it. I love my iPad. I love my iPod. I love IHOP."

Recommended: Apple's new iPad brings 4G, better camera, more pixels than an HDTV

But Apple, which clearly hoped to win a publicity coup, only succeeded in triggering a backlash. Around the blogosphere today, many critics urged the suddenly-stuffy Apple to chill out. "The recent events make one wonder if Apple needs to get its hands back on the public's pulse," CNET's Greg Sandoval wrote in one typically incredulous post.

"It might help the company's image if someone over in Cupertino reminds everybody to lighten up. Apple sells products that are supposed to be fun and hip," Sandoval added.

Of course, Ellen isn't the only public figure to tee off Apple. Late last month, Comedy Central star Jon Stewart suggested that Apple had gone too far in its handling of the Gizmodo/iPhone 4G debacle. "I mean, if you want to break down someone’s door, why don’t you start with AT&T, for God’s sake?" Stewart joked. "They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone.”

And then there was Stephen Colbert, who pointed out that the new Apple iPad has the same touchscreen technology – and many of the same apps – as the iPhone. “And just like an iPhone, you can’t make phone calls with it," Colbert deadpanned, to a roar of applause.

No word on whether Stewart or Colbert were approached by the Apple cops.

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