Amazon, Walmart and Others Build Web Apps to Sidestep Apple Rules

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And so it begins.

Let’s jump in the Wayback Machine and set our coordinates for June 11, 2007. Apple had just announced something called the “iPhone” and with it, an “innovative new way to create applications” for the device.

The premise was simple: In lieu of an actual app store, Apple urged developers to “create Web 2.0 applications which look and behave just like the applications built into iPhone”—it was just called “iPhone” back then, not “the iPhone.” Basically, if you wanted to make an app, you built it on the web.

(MORE: Adobe Helps Turn Flash into HTML5, Targets Apple Devices)

About a year later, the actual App Store was launched and developers could build applications that lived on the phone itself instead of on the web. Web-based apps hadn’t been quite as slick as promised, and having a central repository like the App Store gave Apple a little more control over which apps ran on the iPhone and, more importantly, a 30% cut of any app sold.

Fast forward to the current day and Apple has a bit of a problem on its hands. As it turns out, certain web-based apps can actually perform well enough that app makers don’t need to build them for Apple’s App Store any more. And app makers that sell content from inside their apps don’t want to play by Apple’s new-ish rules stating that each piece of content sold within an app commands a 30% cut to Apple—and linking to an outside website to sell content from within the apps is a no-no.

(MORE: Apple Tightens App Store Rules on In-App Purchases)

Let’s say you’re Amazon and you’ve been selling e-books for the past couple years at around $10 a pop. That’s your pricing model. And all of a sudden, the books you sell on the apps that you’ve developed for some of the most popular mobile devices around—iPhone and iPad—will now see a 30% cut go right to Apple. That’s not going to work for you, especially considering that Apple sells its own e-books, too.

So now Amazon has rolled out its “Kindle Cloud Reader”—basically a web-based version of the Kindle app “that leverages HTML5 and enables customers to read Kindle books instantly using only their web browser – online or offline – with no downloading or installation required.”

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