Apple reportedly rejects Sony Reader app, changing stance on purchases made outside the App Store?

According to the New York Times, Apple has rejected a few apps recently including Sony’s Reader app, based on the way content is purchased for use within the app. Sony's Reader app is an eBook platform similar to Apple’s own iBooks app and the Amazon Kindle app. Content can be found and purchased outside the app, bypassing Apple's iTunes Store and therefore bypassing Apples slice of the pie.

According to Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division, Apple told him that from now on, all future in-app purchases would have to go through Apple and this includes eBooks. Currently the Amazon Kindle bypasses the App Store too; when you select Kindle Store from within the Kindle app, you are taken to a web page where you can select, buy and pay for your book. This happens outside of iTunes and the App Store; Apple does not take any revenue from Kindle book purchases, but that now looks set to change.

Maybe this change is coming with the new magazine subscription service we expect to be implemented in iOS 4.3 and the launch of The Daily newspaper. Either way, this is another blow to the consumer, who will no doubt end up paying more and have less control of their content. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

[The New York Times]

chrisoldroyd

UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

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Apple reportedly rejects Sony Reader app, changing stance on purchases made outside the App Store?

46 Comments

I think the Droid series is getting more and more attractive to me. I am considering replacing my aging WM device with a Vzw iPhone, but if this the way Apple wants to play then I have to reconsider other options...

It might have more to do with how it let's you buy books as opposed to it letting you in the first place. Amazon, b&n, and borders all send you to safari to buy, I'm guessing the Sony might have created a in app store like iBooks we already know both apple and google don't like unmoderated in app stores.

If this account is factually correct (and Sony wasn't trying to do something different than Amazon). I understand the corporate strategy of slowly expanding to consumer the revenue streams of 3rd parties on your platform but ultimately I think the goodwill of consumers is more important to long term viability. Facebook is doing this by taking over in-platform currency. location, etc. Google is doing this by giving away free services, even Twitter started doing this with clients. However those are almost invisible to the end user, or benefit the end user by lowering costs, offsetting the damage that comes from removing alternate sources.
If Apple is really doing this, or considering doing this, it removes choice and raises cost (unless and until Apple gives away an iBooks library bigger than Amazon's at way cheaper prices or free -- which ain't never going to happen.)
My guess is Apple uses this as a negotiating ploy, even tries it out with the Sony's (probably not Amazon's) and then back-peddles when users get upset. Like cross-compilers.
They no doubt don't want to leave any money on the table, but sometimes there are more important things for a platform than every scrap of money in it.

Well said. This also seems a pretty clear violation of the Essential Services doctrine, so another reason to go after Sony, and not Amazon, might be that the DoJ has proven much less likely to pursue actions when the aggrieved corporation is foreign (Sony) rather than American (Amazon). Apple can attack a low priority target with consumers and the government, and then try to use that as precedent if/when they expand the policy.

I wonder how this will work with kindle's whispersync. Will I still be able to purchase @ amazon.com on my Mac and still have it available on my iPhone kindle app?

This is really quite simple. I spend 75% of my time on my iPad reading Kindle books, 20% on the web and 5% wishing it had a front-facing camera (for Skype) and Flash support. If Kindle goes the way of the dodo on the iPad then I'll be buying the first Honeycomb tablet to hit the UK and placing my iPad on eBay. I may have to wait for Skype, but will be sorted for Kindle (and Flash...).

This is annoying. I have a kindle, which I love reading on, and an iPhone. I like having my iPhone have access to my kindle books so if I get stuck somewhere (doctors office, DMV, etc.) without my kindle, I can just pop out my iPhone and read my book, where I left off, and then when I'm done, my kindle is right where I left off on from my iPhone.
I love my iPhone, but it's restrictions like these, if they come to pass across the board, that would cause me to go elsewhere. Apple, make money through innovation, you are good that.

so, by this logic, will Apple reject the SteepAndCheap app because they don't get a cut of the revenue when i buy a new Arc'Teryx jacket?

Sony is likely B.S.ing here. Just watch, the story will change in 48 hours and it will have nothing to do with buying books through safari. I can give countless apps with in app purchase that don't go through Apple at all (Groupon; Living Social; Amazon; Ebay; Kobo). No way this is a policy change as it's being shaped in the press.

I think you have this a little mixed up. If you open your Amazon app and buy a BBQ pit, that is going to Amazon, and Apple has nothing to do with it. It is an one to one purchase. And, Apple (as far as I know) doesn't sell BBQ pits, so they don't care. BUT they do sell books, so, as usual Apple policy, if you want a book, you are going to HAVE to buy theirs. This has been my gripe wih the app store all along. It is NOT "open" and they do NOT allow outside apps, if you will, to be included. We can't have an app that does something better than they do. Countless apps have been rejected because "it duplicated an existing app" already on the phone. The problem is, the new app usually did that function better, and Apple had no intention of changing theirs. Apple is VERY goo at PR, and them throwing rocks at other platforms is actually very funny. You can take your Droid phone and make it like no other, but Apple will force you to have an identical iPhone.

This makes the coming webOS tablet from HP look more appealing. I like Apple products, but hate the closed system.

So, you can't make an app that handles in-app purchases through any mechanism other than the iTunes Store. You apparently now can't use your app to direct people to buy things outside the app store, which are then used by the app that you download through the app store. If you made an app like that, you really are sidestepping the app store. It's no surprise at all that Apple doesn't like that, since it's advertising to create a separate (presumably larger) revenue stream by way of someone else's (Apple) revenue system.
It'd be like selling a DVD player that has a prominent label that says, "Go buy DVDs from our website!" on it, and Our Website is from the device manufacturer, not whatever store you bought the DVD player from. (Does that example work though? Look at the iOS devices - Best Buy sells them, but they're made for you to buy stuff through the Apple iTunes Store.)
The problem is that the entire point of an app like the Kindle app is to be able to access your content through an app on multiple devices, and by necessity that means you buy the content through a separate source.

There is really no way for Apple to stop these companies from offering their content for free on the iPad or iPhone. If they ban the App then Sony and Kindle can just make a Browser reader and let people access their content from a Web Browser. So banning Apps is stupid. What I think Apple could do is ban the ability to buy books in the App or ban links directly to the Web based store within the App. That way people could still access their content but not the store from the App. People could still got to the Kindle or Sony store from the browser but Apple could ban the ability to jump directly there from within the App. This solution would not be as hard for the public to accept as them trying to ban all Apps that access outside content.

There are a LOT of apps that link out to Safari and they aren't all ecommerce apps. Apple couldn't prevent any app from linking out to an ecommerce site without being hit by an anti-trust suite unless they prevented ALL apps from linking out to ANY site. And doing that would really hurt their business because of how many devs it would upset.

I think it is a crime for Apple to have a strangle-hold on commerce on their platform. Could u imagine if back in the day, Microsoft said, "Hey, you can buy ANY software you want, but it has to come through us!". Wow, there would be lawsuits coming from EVERYWHERE.
It is just plain greed on Apple's part. Are they going to control which books we can read? Just as they control which apps we can run?
I see a lawsuit in their future on this.

apple has been doing this the entore time with itunes and the app store, this is not anything new.. lock-in.. closed.. it is why you dont have flash web apps as well. not because of security, speed, etc, but because its something apple could not control..

I beg to disagree. This is the first time for content. I use Kindle and never had to go though the app store to buy a book.
So this IS a new "feature" for Apple to increase their profits at the expense of the customer (cause you KNOW that Sony and others will pass the cost on to the consumer)

The lawsuit, if it ever comes, will be based on the Essential Facilities Doctrine ( http://bit.ly/fc9rMX ) - sometimes called the Essential Services Doctrine. It is as old as the Sherman Act, but, unlike the Sherman Act, being a monopolist is not a requirement for a conviction. (This may have changed in a recent US case, though it is unclear. In the European analogue to this law, monopoly standing is definitely not required.)
Under Essential Facilities, you do not need to be a monopolist -- you merely need to hold a chokepoint over access to a market, and use that chokepoint unfairly. It even applies if you built the chokepoint yourself; in fact, that was the initial case that established the doctrine.
Apple definitely has a chokepoint here, but armies of lawyers have made careers arguing over words like "unfairly," so an investigation would have to determine if what Apple is doing here (or in the App Store in general) would qualify as unfair use under Essential Facilities before any case would proceed. It may not be, but, if there is any legal action in the future, I bet that will be its grounds.

history has shown us the true side of apple, and it will happen sooner or later.. exactly why i will be dumping our two ipads for android devices as soon as the right honeycomb device comes out that fits my feature list!

30% cut and exclusivity eh? My way or the highway? I guess after Jobs left, Apple got Tony Soprano to fill in.

Will certainly not be impressed if Apple threatens the Kindle app. Right now my iPhone with the Kindle app is a perfect companion to my Kindle 3. Killing off the Kindle app will not cause me to suddenly start buying iBooks, unless those books come with an export to Kindle device option. I'll just carry my Kindle more.

Agreed! If I were forced into buying iBooks, I would likely just find another device to carry...

As the store owner, Apple wants it's cut. Business is business. If you want Apple to change, don't buy the products.
This is not a facetious comment. The only way to make a large corporation change its ways is not to participate in the things that make them money. EG, I don't like Google. I therefore never use any of Google's products. The only exception is Youtube, which has been kind of hard to avoid as everyone and their brother hosts videos there.

The only possible sticking point is that Apple has positioned itself as an exclusive store. If you control the only way to access a market, the rules change a bit. See above comment on Essential Facilities doctrine. Not saying Apple is guilty, or that the DoJ would pursue even if they were, but there certainly seems to be grounds for looking into it, if the article is true.

iOS app store developers are free to try the legal route, but I'm skeptical anything can come of it, short of some government agency with an axe to grind.
I don't see what's being choked. Apple apparently wants cut of the Internet commerce done on iOS. Some iOS developers are choosing not to participate. They aren't being prevented from participating.

Shrike,
U really don't see what is being choked? U don't see that Apple is stifling competition?
I'll go back to my Miscrosoft analogy. If, back in the 90's, microsoft said, you can buy any s/w u want, or any content you want. But you ahve to buy it through us. There would have been lawsuits galore! Think of what happen when MS just gave Internet Explorer the advantange because it was built into the op System.
I think Apple gets away with much more. We REALLY need to separate platform (includes h/w & op system) from the marketplace.
Sorry, I believe in free access to the marketplace for all! And the operative word here is FREE.

So, you think Apple's ruling here is actionable in a court of law?
No problems with you disagreeing with it due to political, personal preferences, but can the US Gov't stop Apple? I don't think so. I didn't think the gov't could stop Apple with the non-native tools ban, either.
Look, we'd all love the world to be one of peace, money trees, and endless, free energy & food, with Google, Apple and MS all sitting in a tree kissing, but in reality, it's pretty complex. Allow it to be complex. For eBooks, the losers are the content creators, not the users, not the publishers, not the distributers, and not the retailers.
These are publisher-retailer businesses arguing about their cuts. These are shark infested waters. Forgive me if I'm not outraged about it.

It's not the U.S. Government they need to fear, its the EU. The same ones that made them reverse their third-party tools clause.

That's an interpolation (the EU making Apple change a policy). I'll have to go back see how the EU did with Apple iTunes music policies, where Apple has a much much bigger share and influence, to how they did.

I have a Sony reader.
The software is the worst thing i´ve seen since Windows Vista.
I´m sure apple has denied the authorization because the app was as bad as the software.

iPod, iPhone and iPad exist for one purpose and one purpose only, to generate profit. I know people like to brag about Apples profit, and this is a move to increase said profits, so lets all rejoice! In actuality, the profits only benefit Apple and its shareholders, the end-user has nothing to gain when the stock price goes up another buck because consumers now have to pay 30% more for their books purchased from Sony, Amazon, B&N or Google because Apple decided they want to push their own book store people are uninterested in.
The buying a BBQ analogy above does not fit, because you do not use the content from within Apples ecosystem. Apple has never allowed in-app purchases, for application content, to be made without going through the app store so they can get their cut, but it was possible to sidestep that by purchasing content outside the app store that could be used on the device (not bbqs).
If what Sony says is accurate this extends the lock-down to all applications that promote the purchasing of content from outside the app store for content that will be used on the device, regardless of if that purchase is made on the device or externally (on your computer or in a store). Again, things like Groupon are not affected because they promote purchasing of non app content. This change DOES affect Amazon Kindle, B&N and Google Books however, because the apps are designed to use content purchased elsewhere, thus robbing Apple of the income they think the deserve. We will see if they decide to apply the new rule to Amazon though as reading Kindle books on iPhone and iPad has been a big selling point and Apple selectively applies the rules to whom they want, when they want.
Its another move by Apple that in no-way benefits Apple customers, and also directly affects non-Apple customers because of inflated prices across the board to cover the Apple tax. At this point Apple really can't afford to lose more of their shrinking user base, so I doubt they will apply the new rule to Amazon, yet. But as device sales slow due to increased competition, they need to find any way they can to keep pulling a profit and keeping the stock prices inflated, it's the only thing that can keep the company afloat.

The Wall Street Journal http://tinyurl.com/4mmar3g is reporting that Apple says they have not changed their guidelines, but then goes on to explain that the situation is precisely that Apple insists on getting a cut of any in-app purchases.
So Amazon is next up.
In other news: If you drive up to a window and buy a Latte, Ford wants a cut of that in-car-purchase.

If this is true I will not be buying an iPad 2 as I was planning. Also iPhone 5 likely to morph into an Android. I refuse to work with any company as greedy as this alleged policy suggests.

F*** Apple's greedy policies. As of now i don't think im going to get an ipad 2, ill probably move to a different company which is less greedy and less limited.

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When in doubt, mumble; much more trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder.
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