Engadget reported this morning that Apple quietly changed the app store submission rules, and they’ve loosened up the in-app purchase requirements. It looks like apps and services that offer subscriptions and book content will be able to skirt around having to use Apple’s purchasing system (and the 30% cut to Apple that it includes).
Here’s how they rephrased the agreement:
11.13 Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, such as a “buy” button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected
11.14 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app.
So the good news is that there is a loophole, and it’s looking like no one’s yanking the Kindle or NOOK apps on iOS, despite the fears and rumors. The bad news is that it’s probably going to be a bit more of a pain to purchase ebooks on the go. The easiest answer is going to be to bookmark your bookstore(s) of choice, just to save a few minutes since you won’t be able to jump directly from ebook app to website.
This whole change seems almost petty; it’s not going to deter people from buying books and magazines because there’s an extra step involved. Likewise, consumers aren’t going to skip signing up for subscriptions to Netflix or Slacker because they have to exit the app and enter Safari. What’s far more likely is that users are going to complain, and probably roll their eyes and wonder their friend’s Droid isn’t such a pain and then move on. For subscription purchases like Netflix or magazines, it’s a one-time purchase. For ebooks, it’s just as easy to buy while browsing on a desktop (or even on mobile Safari) and then bulk syncing any purchases all at once. So this is just a petty power play over content providers.
In the end, it’s a net positive, though the real winners here are Apple and content providers. Apple doesn’t lose flagship applications and the various media companies don’t lose access to the huge iOS user base. Sadly, we as consumers lose a bit; we still have choices in applications and content, but we end up with a more convoluted system than necessary thanks to behind the scenes machinations.
Do you find yourself using your iPhone or iPad to purchase ebooks and other media content? Will this change make a difference to you, or is it just a tempest in a teapot? Share your take on it below!