Is Apple Relaxing Dev Restrictions to Counter Android?
iOS 5 may have been the big news this week, but Apple also made some moves in the app space worth noting: Its controversial rules for in-app subscriptions have been relaxed, allowing publishers to offer and freely charge whatever they wish, however they wish. For new media, that’s excellent news. But is there more to Apple’s moves than meets the eye?
To bring readers up to speed: Apple required publisher and other content providers that offered apps with subscription services to also make that content available via an in-app purchase for at least the same or less than what a content provider offered outside the app. That caused a lot of ire, since that meant Apple got a 30 percent cut, and publishers wouldn’t be able to adjust their in-app price to offset the apple cut unless they adjusted their out-of-app price.
The guidelines also raised the question about how subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu fit into the scheme of things. Now that Apple has relaxed those restrictions, developers can do and charge whatever they want — in-app or otherwise — as long as they don’t provide a link inside the app that takes a user out of the app to buy the service. More simply put: If you want to subscribe to a magazine and don’t want to do an in-app purchase (or the app doesn’t offer one), you’ll have to manually open a browser and subscribe at a website. Minor annoyance? Maybe, but it’s really no big deal in the grand scheme of things.
We’ve also covered how Apple eased its restrictions on third-party development platforms, and now, even more interesting, it’s been reported that famous iPhone-jailbreak developer Peter Hajas, who developed a third-party iOS notification system, has been recruited by Apple. The iOS 5 notification system Hajas designed looks basically identical to the one Apple launched. Coincidence? I think not. What’s more, Apple has clearly taken a cue from Android by providing a notification pull-down screen. In this case, it seems Apple has agreed it’s a useful and functional way to get at important information fast.
So why has Apple gone “soft,” so to speak?
Google is keeping Apple honest with Android, and Apple is listening to what people want. Many of the features Apple introduced in iOS 5 have been jailbreakable features since iOS 3, and it’s likely Apple realized most jailbreakers weren’t looking to surreptitiously run unapproved software — they just wanted more helpful functionality out of their device. (It’s the same reason I did it.) Apple can and will always keep its ecosystem inside a walled garden, but it doesn’t mean it has to kick people and ideas out. I believe Apple’s blossoming is smart and it will do the company even more good in the long run.