Gruber has been more accepting of the new iOS App Store rules than I am, but I like his latest post on the subject. New information to me: there’s a limit of 3,500 items in the in-app purchase catalog for any iOS app. As he notes, this has obvious implications for Amazon. It also occurred to me last week that the 30% Apple cut wouldn’t work terribly well for the oft-rumored NFC implementation. If Apple wants us to use iPhones as payment devices everywhere, they’re not going to be taking 30% of all transactions made via the iPhone. So I keep on thinking there’s more to the picture than we’ve seen so far. I’ll say this: Apple continues to be annoyingly opaque.
Apple’s released its new subscription/purchase rules. Interesting commentary here. He drills in on the one sentence in the press release which refers to anything other than subscriptions: “In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.” If Apple hadn’t rejected the Sony Reader app, I’d assume that “content” referred to subscriptions, but since Apple clearly does care in some unspecified way about non-subscription content I can’t feel confident there.
30% is a huge cut. If you’re getting something for it, such as payment processing, it’s not unreasonable. If you’re a small content provider and this frees you from having to worry about PCI compliance, processor gateways, and so on? Sure! But if you’re a big content provider or aggregator (hi, Amazon), you are not getting value for that money.
Apple said something somewhat confusing that nonetheless implies that the way in which they enforce the rules has changed. Gruber summarizes. If Apple means what they seem to mean, that’s alarming. Also difficult to enforce. If Amazon removes the store button from the Kindle app, but still sells Kindle books pushed to the iPad via their Web site, is the Kindle app still offering the customers the ability to purchase books outside the app? I can buy ePub books from various sources without involving Stanza, and then download ’em to Stanza. Does this violate anything?
This wouldn’t have happened when Jobs was around.
That’s a joke.
Sony says Apple rejected their Sony Reader app on the grounds that all purchases on the iPad must go through the App Store. I don’t care that much about Sony on a practical level, but the implication is that the Kindle app is likewise in trouble, since it allows me to buy a book via the Amazon web site and download it to my iPad. If that’s no longer allowed, I’d be fairly annoyed.
On the other hand, the Kindle app pushes you over to Safari to make the purchase. It isn’t clear if the Sony Reader app did the same thing. The Sony Bookstore is not available on the Web; if you click on the “Want this eBook?” link on a Sony Bookstore page you’re instructed to download the Reader. I’m guessing that Sony didn’t implement a secret Web purchase page for the sake of the iPad.
The New York Times is not citing Apple sources in their reporting. There’s one troublesome line: “The company has told some applications developers, including Sony, that they can no longer sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.” At face value, that would imply that the Kindle likewise violates the rules. But Sony has an interest in making Apple look like they’re being unreasonable, and we don’t even know if Sony was the source for that information.
Clause 11.2 of the current App Store guidelines (PDF) says “Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected.” Key words are “in an app.” Safari is an app; I think a strict reading of those terms would rule out the way Amazon’s doing it as well. On the other hand, a strict reading of those terms would rule out any ecommerce. It could be better written. Possibly the intent is that it be read as “for an app.” Either way, there’s room for rejecting the Kindle app, and of course Apple reserves the right to do whatever for whatever reason.
Given the upcoming subscription feature launch, it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple’s reevaluating its stance on paid content for iPad apps. It would surprise me somewhat if they decided to tighten the screws on Amazon, and it would disappoint me, but it’s certainly possible. Check back in a month or so, I guess.
Oh, and a side note: the reason Kindle beats the crap out of the Apple iBookstore? Authors can’t link to the Apple iBookstore on their Web pages. I can’t buy while I’m sitting at my computer and push the book to my iPad. I gotta drag out the iPad, search, blah blah blah. Surprisingly bad design decision on Apple’s part. Killing the Kindle app (and presumably other ebook apps like the Nook app and perhaps Stanza) would really hurt the iPad as a book reader.