Monday, October 29, 2018

Business Licensing for Omni’s iOS Apps

Ken Case:

In 2016, we started switching our apps over to free downloads with in-app purchases. This solved a lot of problems for consumers who purchase our apps through the App Store, by enabling free trials, upgrade discounts, and free upgrades for recent purchases. Unfortunately, switching to in-app purchases made it much more difficult for businesses and schools to purchase our apps through the App Store, since Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (which lets organizations purchase apps) doesn’t support in-app purchases.


Looking around at how other people have solved this problem, one of the better approaches is to offer a single sign-on based licensing solution. (This is an approach Microsoft supports for licensing Office 365, for example.) The idea is that an organization will purchase licenses for use by a team, and the app will offer to let team members sign in with a set of credentials which will be verified by that organization using their single sign-on server. This lets the organization be responsible for purchasing and distributing their team’s licenses—including redistributing licenses when appropriate.

So, in other words, licensing has to completely bypass the App Store. I guess Apple allows this because you can still purchase in-app. But there must be restrictions or else we would already see a parallel app economy with discounts and upgrades purchased directly from the developer.

Update (2018-11-13): Ken Case:

To be clear, we do offer IAP. Unfortunately, IAP doesn’t support business purchases (which I filed a few years ago as radar 29148022). Before implementing this option, we had no mechanism for businesses to purchases licenses at all (they could only reimburse personal purchases).

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