When Apple released its subscription policy last week, publishers were quiet about it, but the buzz was that the 30 percent cut that the tech giant demands for content moving across platforms like the iPad and the iPhone seemed awfully steep.
How many publishers will bite on the subscription deal remains to be seen (the New York Times and others point to the cathedral-like silence from big magazine publishers like Condé Nast, Time and Hearst) but in the meantime, Apple is now getting an earful from app developers over the subscription policy.
Readability creator Richard Ziade issued an open letter to Apple on its blog
Monday, over the rejection of Readability’s app, which offers
reformatted articles stripped of ads and shares revenues with writers
“Readability’s model is unique in that 70 percent of our
service fees go directly to writers and publishers. If we implemented In
App purchasing, your 30 percent cut drastically undermines a key
premise of how Readability works.”
He went on to say, “We believe that your new policy smacks of greed,” but ultimately adds that he hopes Apple changes its mind.
As concern and in some cases outrage among developers of
similar apps spread, Apple CEO Steve Jobs himself appears to have
responded to an inquiry from a MacRumors reader with an email apparently sent from his iPhone that said, “We created subscriptions for publishing apps, not SaaS apps.”
That refers to Software as a Service apps, typically the type
of programs that offer pay as you go or subscription services, like
Dropbox, a service that is used to store, sync, and, share files online.
It would appear that Readability does not fall into the SaaS category, but there was much speculation on technology blogs such as Cult of Mac
in regards to which apps would and would not fall into the 30
percent-cut category now and which might do so in the future, and how
the policy is going to be enforced.
Other developers, such as screenshot sharing service TinyGrab,
were also confused over the policy, announcing that it would not be
pursuing an app that could run on Apple’s iOS platform due to the
restrictions surrounding the new subscription system.
“We really want to be part of the app revolution on OS X and
iOS but it looks as though that may no longer be able to happen, until
Apple fix these issues and welcomes us in again,” TinyGrab stated.
Clearly, it’s a lot of bad news for Apple and even the e-mail
attributed to Jobs did little to allay the confusion, and the clamoring
over the policy seems to demand some kind of detailed clarification.
If none is forthcoming, it could send app developers straight into the arms of competitor Google. The company, which has set itself up as a rival to Apple with its Android platform, will only take a 10 percent cut in its competing subscription plan,
which allows publishers to sell subscriptions across its websites,
tablets, and smartphones through a system called Google One Pass.
If Apple’s policy is confusing to publishers—and app
developers for that matter— the 30 percent versus 10 percent cut could
make things pretty simple.