Could App rentals be a panacea for developers?

Strings have been discovered in iTunes 10.5 beta 9 that suggest that Apple will soon allow developers to rent their apps. Wait, what?!
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor

Cult of Mac posted an interesting piece today noting that Tech Erra discovered strings in the latest iTunes developer beta (10.5 beta 9 for you home gamers) that suggest Apple will soon allow developers to rent their apps.

The strings read:

Hidden Strings Inside Latest iTunes Beta Say You’ll Soon Be Able To Rent Your Apps

The strings suggest that Apple will allow users to rent apps for a limited time, which will then be automatically deleted at the end of the rental period.

Wow. That's a shocker.

This is the first I've heard of Apple renting apps, which could prove beneficial for consumers that have been critical of Apple's lack of a demo or trial period for apps. Lacking such an infrastructure developers have turned instead to offering featured-limited "lite" and "free" versions of their paid apps in hopes of converting users from free to paid.

I would have bet that Apple would have jumped into music subscriptions (nee rentals) before it rented apps, but hey, I've been wrong before. Apple seems to be ceding the music subscription market to companies like Spotify, et. al. but hopefully music subscriptions will follow suit.

If it pans out, App rentals could be a boon for developers who've complained about the App Store's lack of demo apps and it could actually be better for them in the end. For example, a developer selling a $10 app could "rent" that same app for $1 for 24 hours in hopes of converting the user to the full version. At least they'd be able to capture $1 for the rental -- as opposed to zero for a "lite" version -- and who knows? Maybe the user would rent it for 2, 3 or 4 days, gaining even more "found" revenue that would have been out of reach before.

The question this brings up is rent-to-own. In other words, if I rent a $10 app for $1, will I be able to apply that $1 rental fee to the full purchase price should I decide that I want to own the app. I'm sure that developers would demand this type of infrastructure as an incentive to covert more users to paid, but I'd leave it up to the devs to chime in.

Could this be another surprise for tomorrow's announcement? We'll know in about 24 hours.

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