UPDATE: Apple launches App Store subscriptions, clarifies (or perhaps not) in-app purchases

Apple has announced that its new subscription service is now available to all content publishers in the App Store.

Apple has announced that its new subscription service is now available to all content publishers in the App Store.

Here are the details:

Subscriptions purchased from within the App Store will be sold using the same App Store billing system that has been used to buy billions of apps and In-App Purchases. Publishers set the price and length of subscription (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly). Then with one-click, customers pick the length of subscription and are automatically charged based on their chosen length of commitment (weekly, monthly, etc.). Customers can review and manage all of their subscriptions from their personal account page, including canceling the automatic renewal of a subscription. Apple processes all payments, keeping the same 30 percent share that it does today for other In-App Purchases.

Apple also clarifies its position on In-App Purchases, and how the new rules will NOT affect apps such as Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's NOOK app (emphasis added):

Publishers who use Apple's subscription service in their app can also leverage other methods for acquiring digital subscribers outside of the app. For example, publishers can sell digital subscriptions on their web sites, or can choose to provide free access to existing subscribers. Since Apple is not involved in these transactions, there is no revenue sharing or exchange of customer information with Apple. Publishers must provide their own authentication process inside the app for subscribers that have signed up outside of the app. However, Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app. In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

Why does this not affect the likes of Amazon and Barnes & Noble? because they are NOT the publishers of the content. 

There's also clarification of the associated privacy policy:

Protecting customer privacy is a key feature of all App Store transactions. Customers purchasing a subscription through the App Store will be given the option of providing the publisher with their name, email address and zip code when they subscribe. The use of such information will be governed by the publisher's privacy policy rather than Apple's. Publishers may seek additional information from App Store customers provided those customers are given a clear choice, and are informed that any additional information will be handled under the publisher's privacy policy rather than Apple's.

Makes sense.

[UPDATE: Or maybe not ... that said, at this point there's no clear comment from either Apple or Amazon about this issue. I've yet to see a direct quote from anyone at Apple saying that these new rules apply to apps such as the Kindle. The best is this from ComputerWorld:

"Later Tuesday, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller confirmed that those rules apply not only to newspaper and magazine publishers, but also to content sellers like Amazon.com, which offers a Kindle app for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad."

But again, there's no direct quote.

My guess now is that this ruling might apply to subscriptions (such as magazine subscriptions) that Amazon has on offer. I really don't see how it will be viable for third parties to hand over 30% of a sale to Apple. This level of pricing is far too enthusiastic and a cash-grab too far.

We'll have to wait and see.]

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