Apple eases App Store in-app subscription rules

Tools

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has quietly updated its App Store Subscriptions guidelines, eliminating the requirement that mandated publishers offer iOS content and services at the "same price or less than [they are] offered outside the app." MacRumors reports that Apple has removed all pricing guidelines in conjunction with the update, giving content providers the freedom to offer in-app subscriptions at any price they wish--the computing giant also expunged a rule dictating that external subscriptions must be also offered as an in-app purchase, with Apple sharing in the resulting revenues.

"Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content," reads section 11.14 of the revised App Store Subscriptions agreement. "Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app."

MacRumors notes that the new guidelines appear to indicate that digital media service providers like Netflix, Hulu and Rhapsody should be able to offer iOS applications without incorporating in-app purchase mechanisms. In addition, it appears content providers could offer in-app subscriptions with a premium designed to cover Apple's 30 percent cut of all revenues.

Apple introduced the App Store subscription platform in mid-February. Publishers immediately expressed serious reservations over the terms of the service, which awarded Apple 30 percent of subscription revenues, as well as ownership of consumer data like names and email addresses. Some smaller developers even scrapped their iOS application plans.

"Our philosophy is simple--when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a February statement. "All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers."

Apple's revised rules still appear to pose significant challenges for companies like Amazon.com. The online retailer's Kindle e-book application for iOS includes a Kindle Store button that transports the user directly to its web storefront, and the revised App Store Subscription guidelines explicitly block buttons and external links of this type.

For more:
- read this MacRumors article

Related articles:
Hearst inks deal with Apple for iPad magazine subscriptions
Time Inc./Apple deal yields free iPad magazines for print subscribers
Publishers balk at Apple's App Store subscription terms
Apple rolls out App Store subscription plans

Filed Under