It looks like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google and the Wall Street Journal all have one thing in common: they’ve been forced to comply with Apple’s controversial App Store rules. What’s more, Google’s apparently said to heck with it, and yanked its app from the store entirely.
Onward, tangled web! Recall the controversy in February, when Apple declared that App Store vendors couldn’t provide in-app links to out-of-app content, say a link to the vendor’s product page? At the time, Apple’s policy seemed draconian because of a requirement that vendors sell their apps at the App Store price (or less) if offered elsewhere, say on the vendor’s official product page. The backlash apparently got through to Cupertino: Apple backed off the sell-for-the-same-price requirement last month, allowing vendors to do as they pleased away from the App Store. But the “no links to external purchase sites” requirement remained.
Ergo today’s app-functionality switch-e-roo. As expected, some vendors are opting out of Apple’s “we’ll take 30% of your app’s App Store sales, thank you” requirement by disabling purchasing options. And as noted up top, in some cases they’re simply disappearing from the store entirely.
I just checked, and sure enough, Google’s app is history, or at least I couldn’t find it in an App Store search on the company’s name. Google’s declined comment, so it’s possibly a coincidence, but I doubt it. Were I running the Barnes & Noble and WSJ apps, no doubt they’d be prompting me for updates to revoke purchasing privileges, too.
A point of clarification: I actually have Amazon’s official iOS app on my iPhone, and I’m still able to buy stuff with it. There’s nothing sitting in my “update app” queue. And when I deleted the app and re-downloaded it, just to be sure, the “buy” option remained.
Amazon’s button removal is thus limited (so far) to its Kindle app. Tapping “Kindle Store” from within that app previously conjured the iOS version of Safari and linked to Amazon’s mobile Kindle purchase page (you can still get to the page manually, but today’s update removes the “Kindle Store” button). Alas, no more.
WSJ talks about why it halted direct sales on “Apple-Device Apps,” adding that Canadian e-book retailer Kobo was following suit. The Journal says its parent company, News Corp., had been getting around Apple’s purchasing system by redirecting visitors to external links, but that it, too, plans to remove all in-app purchasing options soon.
“We remain concerned that Apple’s own subscription [rules] would create a poor experience for our readers, who would not be able to directly manage their WSJ account or to easily access our content across multiple platforms,” said a Journal spokesperson in the article.
Because having to call customer service or visit the website manually to subscribe is somehow “smoother”? I’m sympathetic to the Journal‘s plight, for sure, but let’s not mince words. They’re walking because they’re balking at Apple’s 30%-of-revenues price to play.
It’ll be fascinating to see this develop. Will enough majors exit the e-building to force another rethink of Apple’s App Store policies? Or will users simply find other ways to get what they’re after by switching to different content providers?