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Jobs: Subscription rules meant for publishers, not SaaS

updated 09:55 am EST, Tue February 22, 2011

Leaves fate of apps like Readability in question

Developers should be safe from new in-app subscription rules if their titles involve software as a service (SaaS), claims Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "We created subscriptions for publishing apps, not SaaS apps," he says in an iPhone e-mail, sent in response to a question from a contract developer. The person noted that most of his work involves apps which are nominally free but involve logging into private data and/or services.

Concerns have been raised that subscription rules could be used to clamp down on apps for a variety of services such as Dropbox and SalesForce. In fact a Readability app has been already been rejected from the App Store, despite protests that the articles the developer strips down represent a service and not subscription content. The company has also complained that Apple wants a 30 percent cut from revenue already split between Readability and publishers.

Apple could be forced to revise App Store rules regardless. The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are probing possible antitrust violations, as Apple policies require publishers to provide "the same or better offer" in-app for any outside method of iOS subscription payment. The convenience of in-app payments is likely to heavily favor Apple, which claims a 30 percent cut of all in-app subscription revenue even though content may not be hosted on its servers.

by MacNN Staff



    Comment buried. Show
  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just wait developers....

    Just wait developers. Apple's now moving into the publishing space, blocking apps it once accepted and demanding a 30% slice of retail for products or services, while doing virtually nothing. That's because it wants to crush the iBookstore's direct competitors (first Sony, soon Amazon, B&N and Kobo). Readability's user-selected reading is close enough to magazine subscriptions that Apple had to crush it too. Control has become Apple's guiding mantra.

    But developers should not forget that Apple has that huge server farm in North Carolina coming online soon and it will want a hefty return for that investment. It'll be a direct competitor to DropBox and may eventually move into a broader spectrum of services including streaming music and data serving. No matter what you do, how you collect your money, or how big (Amazon) or small (Readability) your are, when Apple moves into your space, it looks like you'll either have to go or you'll have to hand over what's likely to be all your profits. We're watching Act One. Your turn may come in Act Three.

    Someone put it well when he noted that, in the 1990s we were worried that Microsoft would begin to do the sorts of things that Apple is now doing. Perhaps Microsoft's worse deed was creating a Windows beta that balked at running Dr. DOS, even though the shipping version of Windows ran fine with it. Compare that with Apple's refusal to even allow popular, well-designed apps on their iDevices simply because they compete with something Apple is doing. Microsoft never did anything like that. It never expected competitors to pay for the 'right' to run their apps in Windows.

    Also keep in mind that being good at what you doesn't offer protection. In the case of ebooks, Amazon is eating Apple's lunch with their Kindle 3 and Kindle apps for almost every platform imaginable. Amazon is probably selling 8 to 10 ebooks for every one sold by Apple. Readability isn't Apple's real target. Amazon is. Readability is just collateral damage.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Over the weekend I was reading an article about Facebook and the lawsuit by the twins and UConnect (or whatever). In it, the writer posited that Facebook would never have become the thing it is, rather just turn into another MySpace kind of thing. The reasoning was that UConnect twins were more staid and traditional business types, who would look for ways to make money on their site from all users/companies, rather than the way Facebook basically makes money, by letting others make their own money through Facebook.

    And the first thing I thought of after reading that was Apple. They used to be all about "We'll make the platform, then others can make money from it." And it seems lately like Sculley or Spindler have returned, and it's all about "How dare someone use our platform and give us a chance to get a cut of their profits!".

    They used to be all about "Think Different". That attitude seems to not apply to the iOS, which is more "Think like Micro$oft.".

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