By Harry McCracken | Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 10:18 am
Whew! Every time I’ve bought a Kindle book over the past few months, I’ve worried about the new iOS App Store guidelines Apple announced earlier this year, which said that app developers could only give iOS users access to content purchased outside of the App Store if the same content was available inside the App Store at the same price.
Apple takes a 30 percent cut of the money publishers make inside the App Store. So the new rule seemed to force some companies into an impossible situation–such as Amazon, which was already handing 70 percent of Kindle book prices over to publishers. Apple apparently wanted all of the remaining 30 percent for itself, destroying Amazon’s business model.
But as MacRumors’ Jordan Golson is reporting, Apple has quietly blinked. Now the rules don’t say that app developers need to match content offers made outside of the App Store inside the App Store. Companies don’t need to use In App Purchases at all. They just can’t provide a “Buy” button inside an app that makes it easy for a user to go to the Web and buy new content.
If you like the “iOS is a walled garden” metaphor, think of it this way: now it’s a walled garden without an exit door. You can bring in stuff you’ve bought elsewhere–and buy new stuff inside the garden–but Apple won’t let apps make it easy to duck outside the garden, buy something, then duck back in.
(Of course, it won’t be that hard, either: just do your buying in a browser on your iOS device or computer. But Apple won’t make it easy.)
I always assumed that Apple would adjust the policy before the June 30th deadline it had set for compliance arrived, and saw some evidence that the worst-case scenarios wouldn’t happen, such as apps which didn’t follow the new rule getting approved. Now it’s official.
Apple’s approach to all this has been kinda melodramatic. Apple introduces scary, impossible-sounding new rule! Publishers grumble! Some publishers fall into line! Others don’t! Apple revises rule to make it less scary! But we may have arrived at a relatively happy ending. Some app companies will still be unhappy about not being permitted to make it truly easy to sell content outside of the In App Purchase mechanism. And some iOS users–me included–will wish that the rules were looser, period. But there should be an option here that every app developer can live with. Assuming that these rules stay in place…