Apple Makes Another Concession to Developers

Posted on September 2, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iOS with 18 Comments

The dominos keep falling. Thanks to a Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) ruling, Apple will now allow so-called “reader apps” to have in-app links to the developer’s websites.

“The focus of the App Store is always to create a safe and secure experience for users, while helping them find and use great apps on the devices they love,” Apple Fellow Phil Schiller said of the ruling. “We have great respect for the Japan Fair Trade Commission and appreciate the work we’ve done together, which will help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up and manage their apps and services, while protecting their privacy and maintaining their trust.”

Apple defines “reader apps” as those apps that do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase, like Netflix (videos) and Spotify (music). Curiously, Amazon’s Kindle app is included in this category as well, but that’s because Amazon specifically doesn’t offer its content—ebooks, digital publications, and other content—for sale inside the app on Apple’s platforms so it can avoid the 30 percent Apple tax.

For fans of Xbox, this should mean that Xbox Cloud Gaming can now appear on Apple’s platforms since that Microsoft service is just like Netflix or Spotify, but for games instead of videos or music. Apple infamously blocked Microsoft from offering Xbox Cloud Gaming in the App Store because it wanted a cut of each streamed game, which was and is nonsensical since Microsoft, like other so-called “reader apps,” does not charge for individual pieces of content.

As some Apple critics have correctly pointed out, this is in some ways a minor concession on Apple’s part because it is not giving up any revenues: These “reader apps” charge for subscriptions, not individual pieces of content, so there’s no real in-app purchase (IAP) happening that Apple can get its greedy hands around. But as with other recent changes, it’s still a positive step in the right direction.

And there will be more steps. In the wake of South Korea’s passing of a law requiring Apple and Google to let developers choose third-party payment systems, the European Union announced that it was happy about the change and would make a similar requirement soon. And it’s not alone.

“This South Korean bill goes in the right direction, and I am happy that it’s not only the European Union that is looking into this systematic problem and trying to resolve it systematically,” European Parliament vice president Marcel Kolaja said this week, noting that Apple’s 30 percent vig is “unacceptable.” As I’ve been saying as well, Kolaja said that it’s a good start but “only a piece of the puzzle.”

Also, India is now investigating Apple for the IAP issue, and it is likely to follow in the steps of other regulatory bodies and charge the firm for abusing its dominant market power.

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (18)

18 responses to “Apple Makes Another Concession to Developers”

  1. codymesh

    regulation works.

  2. siverwav

    Its still going to be annoying- you want to pay in the app not be thrown out to the web.

    So I don’t see this as a big deal, a minor improvement at best.

  3. nbplopes

    The problem of all this is that Apple is still controlling the narrative. Apple is not making any concessions whatsoever. This is not about selling Apps.

    Internet enabled devices should be regulated in Tiers as are Networks. Tier 1 devices should be regulated in way that device makers / OSs should not able to charge any party to install an internet end-point, aka App. As such allowing free transit of communications between the end-point / App and another end-point / Server.

    Why? Because all other parts of the Internet is regulated based on the principle of Net Neutrality. This principle has proven sucessfull empowering enormous economic growth and innovation. Most probably Apple and definitely not Google, would not exist without.

    The fact is that by controlling the installation of internet endpoints / App on people’s devices these companies are indeed building non Neutral Networks and expense of a Neutral one, and will be eventually able to control the Internet if not regulated. Now its smartphones, next are cars, smartphones and so on.

    Now, not charging for being able to install and installing an App is different from charging to use says SDKs, hosting and distributing an app and many others things. These should be of course left to be marketed.

    The problem in my opinion is that these systems don’t do this distinction. The true power of these systems is in their ability to fully control which, how and when end-points can be installed by device users.


    • nbplopes

      The second part of my comment … I finished the previous one with

      “The problem in my opinion is that these systems don’t do this distinction. The true power of these systems is in their ability to fully control which, how and when end-points can be installed in device users.“

      I add, even if against users will.

      Why is this such a powerful mechanism of control and siphon money both from users and app/endpoint supplier on the Internet. What is the relevance of end-points as per Internet lingo?

      Well isn’t it wonderful for Apple that we can Google for an digital service or specific app, click a link and be directed to the App Store to users pay and download? Instant it wonderful that on a chat we can post a link to a review of an app and that click another link and be taken to the App Store …. Google search, chat, articles on … its the Web! This without requiring Apple or the User to pay a dime on top to install another end-point / App connected to the Internet? Well this is all powered by a graph of end-points and the use of technologies regulated on the principles of Net Neutrality.

      As I’ve its a Web of end-points and people jump from one to another to go about all sorts of things. By controlling the installation of users devices end-points, no wonder that all the web will eventually point to these end-point gates disguised as Stores.

      This principle is being totally corrupted on the devices used by 48% of planet earth population. Yes, around 48% of the planets population are using a smarphones … and that means either Android / Google Play or iOS / App Store. Yes, the population can partially circumnavigate these devices mechanisms enforce these companies control, but that is not the point. Why do you need to circumnavigate it in the first place?


      • nbplopes

        This is not an dev problem, its not about Apple making concessions to devs. It’s an Internet problem … if the Internet was living organism I would call this approach as of creating a virus a with benign appearance. Or say like the fable where the Fox (Internet) carries the Scorpion (Apple, Google approaches in this context) on it back. It will eventually bite … just let it grow … smartcars, smarhouses, glasses, … possibilities for this form of passive income is limitless without regulation.

  4. bluvg

    “The focus of the App Store is always to create a safe and secure experience for users"

    That should be "One focus of the App Store..."

  5. lvthunder

    So Europe is going to get into the price-fixing game? "Apple’s 30 percent vig is “unacceptable.”" should scare anyone who thinks businesses should be allowed to set the price of their own products and services.

    • bluvg

      Like Turing Pharmaceuticals? Or power in Texas? I don't understand why regulation is often characterized as either-or. Yes, it can get out of control, misaligned, outdated. Then it should be fixed. But that doesn't mean it's never good.

    • dashrender

      I'm with Ivthunder to a point - that point being that there is an open market - which there isn't on the iPhone. there's only one market place, Apple's. that's what makes it good to regulate them.

      What I don't understand is - how does allowing other payment systems into the App Store help? Does that completely cut Apple out of the payment equation? So now Apple has to vet apps for free? yeah, not sure I really get that.

      But that also brings up another question - free apps - ones that exist solely on in app advertising? How does Apple make money from those apps?

      I understand Apple makes money from in-app purchases, but not ads only apps.

    • jgraebner

      I believe that regulations against predatory pricing are a good thing and that one of the biggest problems here in the US right now is that there are too many that have become fooled into believing that it is actually good to let businesses do whatever they want. I'm glad that the EU and South Korea have more sensible views towards this.

  6. lezmaka

    And Paul, you might want to start preparing yourself now for when third party payments or app stores get added because Apple will try and sell it like it's some great thing for developers and users, even though they were forced to do it.

  7. lezmaka

    I don't see this letting Xbox Cloud Gaming into the app store. Maybe I'm not remembering right and/or it was covered badly by the media, but I thought the main reason for denying cloud gaming was because each game would need to be approved, so that's why the initial test only ever had 1 game.

    • rm

      Or further down the road when Apple and Google start to buy up these third party payment / app stores...

    • Paul Thurrott

      There is no difference between a game and a video.

      • christianwilson

        I can't find the source, but I remember reading something about Apple not seeing cloud gaming apps as "reader apps" because you are not just consuming the content, you are interacting with it. Even with that logic, cloud gaming is remote desktop, and it isn't hard to find remote desktop apps in the store.

        I use Apple products and I'm not anti-Apple, but let's be real. Xbox Cloud Gaming and Netflix are the same thing.

  8. Ogugg

    How does using Apple Credit Card in other payment systems help also?