Apple doesn’t give a damn about companies with business models that can’t afford a 70/30 split. Apple’s running a competitive business; competition is cold and hard. And who exactly can’t afford a 70/30 split? Middlemen. It’s not that Apple is opposed to middlemen — it’s that Apple wants to be the middleman. It’s difficult to expect them to be sympathetic to the plights of other middlemen.
Middlemen often provide valuable services. Apple is not willing or able to replace them all, and even if it did it surely wouldn’t do a superior job in all areas.
Why not allow developers and publishers to set their own prices for in-app subscriptions? One reason: Apple wants its customers to get the best price — and, to know that they’re getting the best price whenever they buy a subscription through an app. It’s a confidence in the brand thing: with Apple’s rules, users know they’re getting the best price, they know they’ll be able to unsubscribe easily, and they know their privacy is protected.
This is “best price” as in “you can’t buy it elsewhere for less.” However, even if Amazon et. al. find a way to play ball, Apple’s 30% has to come from somewhere. Prices everywhere will end up being higher than in a world without this Apple policy. Credit card fees, net the cash-back, are perhaps in the range of 1%, which makes Apple’s fee stand out even more.
There’s one striking difference between the subscription controversy today and the App Store controversy in 2008: with subscriptions, Apple is taking away the ability to do something that they previously allowed. There was never a supported way to install native apps for iOS before the App Store. Subscriptions sold outside the App Store, on the other hand, were allowed until last month.
And part of the concern is, what’s next? In another year or two, will Apple try to regulate and tax more types of goods and services? That has to be the operating assumption now.
The whole premise of Windows (and other personal computer systems) is that it is open to third-party software. Apple couldn’t just flip a switch and make Mac OS X a controlled app console system like iOS — they had to introduce the Mac App Store as an alternative to traditional software installation.
Apple can’t flip a switch, but the Mac App Store gives them a ratchet that can produce much the same result over time. There are already some carrots and sticks. App Store apps get automatic installation, updates, and crash reports; non–App Store apps no longer get updated listings on apple.com. The direction of the trend is clear. Would anyone be surprised if future versions of Mac OS X made additional features and APIs available only to App Store apps? There will probably be some sort of pragmatic handwaving, just like the iOS App Store was necessary so that apps couldn’t bring down the cell network, but the bottom line is that Apple could do these things without the App Store and chooses not to.
iOS isn’t and never was an open computer system. It’s a closed, controlled console system — more akin to Playstation or Wii or Xbox than to Mac OS X or Windows. It is, in Apple’s view, a privilege to have a native iOS app.
Exactly. Unstated is that Apple sees a future where most devices run iOS, and Mac OS X takes on more characteristics of iOS (both good and bad).
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