Tag Archives: AppStore

Apple’s subscription system: A mess

From ‘Apple Just Fd Over Online Music Subs’ | paidContent:

“Music and video services do not have a 30 percent margin to give away to Apple NSDQ: AAPL. It means you’ll see them exit the market on iOS devices, paving the way for Apple’s own iTunes streaming.”

Does the subscription system include music content? No one knows, and Apple isn’t saying.

Does it cover content sold piece by piece, like books? This quote:

“We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.”

from Apple’s Trudy Muller certainly says it does. But no one really knows, and Apple isn’t saying.

I doubt that Amazon could follow this rule, even if it wanted to. What’s more, the only ambiguity in that statement is around “outside of the app” – because if that also means “in a browser from any machine” then Kindle on iOS is dead in the water. Is Apple confident enough of its own position to do that?

Of course, some publishers will just go for it. Apple is betting that the publishers will see the opportunity as great, and the risk of being left behind as greater still. The fear factor of missing out will loom large.

But it will leave a sour taste, and publishers will know they’ve been screwed over. In the short term, that won’t matter much. But when a company keeps playing hardball constantly, insisting on the same cut no matter what service it provides because it’s in a position of power, sooner or later it gets bitten back.

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Apple denies content purchasing change, confirms content purchasing change

Apple’s Trudy Muller, talking to John Paczkowski:

“We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines,”

But wait…

“We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.” (my emphasis)

So there’s been no change in the rules, but we are now requiring developers to do things differently. But that’s not a change in the rules. Oh no. Citizens, we have always been at war with Eastasia.

Yes, this destroys the model that Kindle currently employs. Kindle offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, either via Safari or a desktop browser. That clearly means that Amazon must now offer the same content via Apple’s in-app purchasing, delivering Apple its 30% due.

We shouldn’t be surprised, because Jean Louis Gassee wrote about this in January:

“Three months ago, without explanation, Apple began withholding approval of new apps using the subscription loophole. Wondering publishers were left without answers.

Then came terse emails recalling the §11.1 of the App Store Review Guidelines :

11.2     Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected

with the following the punch line :

For existing apps already on the App Store, we are providing a grace period to bring your app into compliance with this guideline. To ensure your app remains on the App Store, please submit an update that uses the In App Purchase API for purchasing content, by June 30, 2011.”

Apple has a perfect right to do this, of course. But my bet is that either Amazon will ultimately sue, or it will offer content through IAP – at 30% 42% more than it usually charges. I wonder who will blink first.

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Is it time for Apple to open up the App Store model?

I don’t often link to Daring Fireball, basically because I assume that you’re all reading it anyway. But in his post on Tits and Apps, John perfectly summarises the challenge that faces Apple in maintaining its mindshare with mobile developers:

Apple sees the App Store as an aspect of its brand. Developers see the App Store as the entirety of the Cocoa Touch platform. This is a significant conflict. Developers, if rejected from the App Store, can freely deliver whatever content they choose through MobileSafari — but you can’t reuse compiled Cocoa Touch apps that way. The work invested in a native app can only be recouped through the App Store.

The obvious answer to this – and, I suspect, the long-term solution – is to have more than one App Store. The Apple App Store would, like Apple’s physical and online stores, be quality goods selected by Apple. The other store (or stores?) would be more free-form, with levels of gauranteed quality which differed from those Apple set.

You would expect that any store which Apple allowed into the walled garden of the iPhone would have certain limitations. For example, the apps wouldn’t be allowed to use private APIs, or contain malware, and I would expect Apple to continue to check every iPhone app for this (and take a cut – less than 30%, but not nothing).

The App Store and Macworld – Malice or stupidity?

There are two possible explanations for Apple’s rejection of Macworld’s app about the iPhone on the grounds that, erm, it mentions iPhone:

Reason 1: Malice

Apple rules the app store with a rod of iron. It has rejected the app because it really, truly wants to “protect its trademarks” and will punish those that fail to obey.

However, one of my general rules in life is that you should be reluctant to attribute to malice something which can be explained by out second option…

Reason 2: Stupidity

Apple is stupid. Something has gone so badly wrong with the management of the app store that it’s employees aren’t capable of making a simple decision like this and getting it right. Option 2 sounds the most likely one to me. But essentially the end result is the same: an app store which is increasingly a poor experience for developers, which is something that will ultimately show in the quality of the developers it attracts.

The App Store is broken. Now, Apple, you need to fix it.

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The One Million Application Store

The iPhone App Store is now over the 90,000 mark, and marching inexorably towards 100,000. Responding to my and Scoble’s posts on the App Store numbers, John highlights the fact that I think I alluded to in my post: That the position is very similar to the old world of Mac vs PC from the 1990′s (and still true today).

To John, and I suspect a lot of Mac users, quality of applications is more important than quantity. After all, Windows has many, many more applications than the Mac. If you’re talking about the world of the personal computer, there’s only one company that could use the phrase “there’s an app for that” – and it isn’t Apple.

However, I think that is missing the long-term picture of the App Store, and how it changes the game compared to the world of the PC. 100,000 applications, even of low quality, is already a big number. A very big number. Having searched around, I can’t find a number for the total number of Windows applications, but I’d hazard a guess that it’s not an order of magnitude larger than 100,000.

In other words, I think that the total number of iPhone apps is already within distance of the total number of Windows apps – and given that the iPhone is much, much younger platform that’s significant. Now relate this to this point of John’s:

“It’s a sign that the iPhone and the App Store are popular, and it’s a self-perpetuating form of popularity, in that developers go where the action is, and users go where the software is.”

More applications = more developers = more applications = more users = more developers… you get the idea.

Given the astonishing growth of the number of iPhone applications, the question should be this: What happens when (and it is when, not if) there aren’t 100,000 apps, but one million? How will that change the game? When “there’s an app for that” isn’t just true in a sorta, kinda, advertising-ish way but literally true, how does that change what people can do?

I don’t actually know the answer. I suspect, in fact, no one does – that the ability to know that whatever you want to do, there’s an application to do it, and importantly that you can find it all in one place – changes the relationship between software, platform and usage so dramatically that we’d be entering a different world.

This is related to a point that Dan Lyons made in one of his best recent Fake Steve posts. The worlds of applications and content are meeting and blurring, and what the outcome of that will be is really unknown at the moment. The next generation of content creators will think of everything as an application. It’s not a video, it’s not a book, it’s not even a web site. It will be a genuinely interactive expression of an idea. The iPhone is starting to give us a glimpse of that. The Apple tablet (if there is one) will give us another glimpse.

Think of it that way, and suddenly even a one million app store isn’t big enough. Ten million? Twenty? Who knows?

But it will be fun finding out.

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Daring Fireball on Apple’s Culture of Secrecy

Daring Fireball:

“Thoughtful criticism. I agree with Anil that Apple has an institutional problem, but I disagree over what it is. I believe that it truly is beneficial for Apple to maintain secrecy regarding future products. The problem is that Apple is secretive about everything — not only does Apple not talk about what they’re going to do, they don’t talk about what they’ve already done. The relationship between the App Store and iPhone developers is emblematic of the problem.”

I couldn’t agree with John more. The big problem isn’t that Apple keeps secrets: it’s that it isn’t transparent about anything.

Being totally transparent is easy. Being totally secretive is easy. The real skill is in understanding when to be transparent, and when to be secretive.

(Picture of John Gruber used under Creative Commons license, by Presta – and a really good pic it is too.)

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