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2011-06-09

Apple quietly revises its in-app purchasing requirements

Apple has quietly revised its in-app purchasing regulations. Mac Rumors provides details, this post gives a summary.

Previously:

  • If you sold app content outside the app, you also had to implement in-app purchasing.
  • Your in-app price had to match your external pricing, while giving Apple a 30% cut at the same time.
Now:
  • You only have to implement in-app purchasing if you show a link or button that takes people to an external purchasing site.
  • You can choose your in-app pricing freely.
Analysis:
  • The old rules were unclear as to whether companies with monthly subscriptions (such as Netflix) would have to implement in-app purchasing (which is a lot of work). The new rules clarify that they don’t have to, as long as there is no “click here to purchase stuff” button.
  • Why the change of heart? There are several possible reasons:
    • The old in-app purchasing requirements might have been a strategy tax [1], where one part of a company is supported at the expense of another part. In Apple’s case, the old requirements would have given iTunes movies, iTunes music and iBooks a competitive edge against, say, Amazon. On the other hand, they threaten the competitiveness of the the iOS app store against Google. Now the latter party prevailed.
    • Some companies such as the Financial Times were prepared to drop their iPad app in favor of a webapp [2].
    • Competition from Android is increasing.
All in all good news, because we can keep on using Amazon’s Kindle app. Looks like Amazon won this game of chicken with Apple [4].

Related reading:

  1. John Siracusa on the Apple strategy tax
  2. The FT Is Sticking It To Apple With A New Web-Based iPad App
  3. Apple changes in-app purchase policies: an analysis
  4. Are Amazon and Apple playing chicken regarding in-app purchasing?

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