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

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Although Amazon doesn’t come right out and say that this is so it doesn’t have to pay a cut to Apple, the press release says, “Without even leaving the app, customers can start shopping in the Kindle Store and will find a unique and immersive shopping experience built specifically for iPad’s Safari browser.” If Amazon wanted to sell a book from within an actual app, under Apple’s new rules, it’d have to pay a cut and it couldn’t link to an outside purchasing page from within the app. In order to avoid paying the 30%, it’d have to rely on people browsing its web site, buying books there, and then going into the app where the purchased books would be synchronized.

(MORE: Steve Jobs: Subscription Terms Only Apply to Publishing Apps)

Conversely, a web-based Kindle app that looks and feels similar to a regular iPad app allows Amazon to sell books however it wants without Apple getting a cut. It’s simpler for users, too.

And Amazon isn’t alone in its strategy.

Walmart’s new streaming video service is going web-only for the iPad as well. The company recently bought out VUDU, which specializes in “subscription-free, video-on-demand,” meaning that movie rentals are being sold one at a time for a few bucks apiece. If selling a $3 movie rental through an iPad app means you’ll have to shell out a buck to Apple, the decision to build an app-like experience that lives on the iPad’s web browser instead makes a lot more sense. Walmart’s press release says, “For one touch access to VUDU, customers can add a VUDU icon to their iPad desktops by clicking the ‘Add to Home Screen’ button when on”

Basically, make it look like a duck and quack like a duck without giving up 30% of the tender, juicy, succulent breast meat. (I’m sorry.)

And it’s not just the 30% cut that some app-makers are trying to avoid. You may recall that Apple’s rules against adult content prompted Playboy to build a web-based iPad offering earlier this year that grants users access to the magazine’s entire back catalog for $8 per month. It, too, is built using HTML5 and looks and feels very similar to many other magazine titles sold as standalone apps through the App Store.

Finally, aside from being able to skirt the 30% cut and the no-nudity rules, web-based apps allow app makers to not only sidestep Apple’s sometimes-long approval policy as well as create apps that function almost identically on other tablets and desktop web browsers. The build once, run everywhere concept has gotten another shot in the arm—one that Apple appears to have inadvertently administered based on some of its App Store policies.

MORE: Apple Eases Pricing Rules for Newspaper and Magazine Apps

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