A quick opinion about in-app purchases

I have wondered from the first time I downloaded the kindle app to my iPhone why Apple was letting them get away with violating their clearly stated and written policies regarding in-app purchasing. At first I thought it was because, when those apps were first approved, the in-app purchasing API was not yet ready – that once it was turned on, apps like Stanza, Kindle, and anyone else bypassing Apple’s cut (in violation of policy) would be required to come into compliance before an update could be released to the app store. I recall, when in-app purchases rolled out, being a bit surprised that this didn’t occur. Apple stated explicitly, from the day they announced the details of their App Store, that they would be taking 30%. This is not a surprise to anyone who was listening. If you happened to get away with violating this policy until now, it doesn’t mean Apple is wrong for trying to enforce it now – just as when you’ve gotten away with violating traffic laws in the past (ie: speeding, et cetera), it doesn’t mean the police are wrong for giving you a ticket now.

As for the idea that Amazon moving to a web-based solution will be a cunning strategy to hurt Apple – that’s what Apple asked everyone to do in the first place! Don’t you recall, the iPhone launched without an app store? Apple told developers “Safari is a modern, standards-compliant browser. Web apps can be just as good as native apps. Go build web apps.” Developers didn’t want to hear it, didn’t want to develop for the web, and Apple developed an SDK and the App Store – putting a price on the ability to use it. That was always the bargain: Develop a web app and maintain complete control, or, if you want to develop a native app we’ll take 30% of everything and we’ll be the ones in control.

Since that day, I’ve been hearing people complaining that Apple and the iPhone (and now iPad) are “closed” systems, “walled gardens,” et cetera, but that bargain has never gone away and I don’t expect it ever will. If you want control, and if you don’t want to give Apple 30% of everything, you’re free to build a web app. If you want to be in Apple’s App Store, you have to follow Apple’s rules and give them their cut. It’s not “closed Apple” vs. “open Android” – it’s (at least) a three way race between “closed Apple,” “a-little-less-closed Android,” and the “open web.” Did you notice that Android phones have pretty good web browsers, too? So weird. Too bad you’ve created artificial adversity where none needs exist.

Oh, and I think this little kerfuffle between Apple and Sony (& perhaps Amazon, B&N, et cetera) will be little more than a speed bump. The apps won’t go away, the retailers won’t move (entirely) to web apps, and Apple will get a cut of every single sale, just like they always told developers they were due. Don’t be surprised if Amazon adds a clause to their kindle-sales TOS to the effect of “that 70% cut we’ve been giving you? It also doesn’t apply when eBooks are purchased through 3rd Party sales channels. You get the old 35%, just like on global sales.” Prices stay the same, Amazon and Apple laugh all the way to the bank. Business will go on, and you’ll all forget this before the next time you can blow something Apple does out of proportion with reality.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

One thought on “A quick opinion about in-app purchases”

  1. Also: If, knowing Apple’s official (if not-yet-enforced (like their no-adult content policy)) policy is to take a 30% (of list) cut, any retailers (ie: kobo, B&N, Amazon) who built their business model around only getting a 30% (of list) cut of any sales are idiots (or at least willfully ignorant) who were so sure Apple would never enforce their clearly stated policy that they made the decision to gamble 100% of their potential income on it. They deserve what they get, in the same way speeders deserve to pay fines and/or face worse consequences.

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