New subscription policy doesn't apply to Software as a Service - Sent from Steve Jobs' iPhone

New subscription policy doesn't apply to Software as a Service - Sent from Steve Jobs' iPhone

A MacRumors reader emailed Steve Jobs about recent fears that Apple's new App Store subscription policy would hurt Software as a Service (SaaS) apps, and Jobs' purported response is -- no it won't.

The question:

As a full time iOS developer, I am concerned (and confused) withe the new App Store guideline regarding "Apps offering subscriptions" (section 11.12).

Most of the iOS apps I have developed, as a contractor for other businesses, have been free apps that had login screens to allow the user access to some amount of private data. and/or service. These businesses have all been well established companies that sell some kind of service to their customers (Software As a Service companies) and the iOS app was merely another "portal" for their users to access their data/services (in many times, in a limited i.e. "mobile" fashion).... for example; SalesForce. I am concerned that most of these businesses will choose to not develop an iOS app for their customers if the IAP & subscription policy was in place.

Would these type's of free apps be still be allowed in the App Store or will they now be expected to use IAP?

The Steve Jobs response:

We created subscriptions for publishing apps, not SaaS apps.

Sent from my iPhone

Apple has been typically tight lipped about what does and does not qualify as subscription so the confusion is understandable but is a Steve Jobs email enough to clarify?


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Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector, Review, and Isometric podcasts, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Dow.

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New subscription policy doesn't apply to Software as a Service - Sent from Steve Jobs' iPhone


Trackback Priority Wow, ibcderinle weblog format! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging glance easy. The total look of your website is magnificent, let alone the content material!

I think once the Cupertino giant releases their publishing reader full blow & the next iOS, things will become more clear.
Apple has never claimed to be fair (see iTunes & DRM)to the mass market.

The arrogance kills me. Why couldn't they clarify this days ago? Enjoying all the free publicity, even if it's negative?

Is it arrogance that half of the end users couldn't understand it, or is it the end user?

Dood --if you think it is the end user, then quickly -- tell me what makes an app a "publishing" app as opposed to a SaaS app or another type of subscription app? If you cannot come up with a clear, exhaustive list of definitive answers a company can use, how can you expect a developer to know when they are nearing the line? (Remember, Apple will not tell us until we finish our work and submit). If you can, why can't Apple do the same and delineate them so that those same business partners know what to expect?
Chirs -- the the above paragraph, this is not a clarification, but something that just muddles the water further. Time Magazine fits into this "publication/subscription" category, but does Netflix? Hulu+? They charge outside the app, and you have to subscribe. Twitter? You publish when you tweet -- if Twitter were to start the rumored "premium" level account, would Apple demand a cut? Twitterrific? They dont charge for the subscription, but you access the subscribed account through it. Evernote? Shared folders are a form of publishing, and you need a premium subscribed account to access the better features? Dropbox? Similar. Salesforce? Well, Steve seems to have ruled this one out here, but Salesforce has a microblogging component (Chatter) as well? Does that count? Does it have to be stripped out of the regular app? How about other services/apps that power blogs?
These sorts of "clarifications" do nothing other than create an extended game of policy whack-a-mole.

So would apps like Netflix and Pandora fall under this category as well? Previously, it seemed like they would be subject to this subscription "Apple tax" too, but if this email is to be believed, that isn't the case. Would Netflix, Pandora, etc. be considered SaaS apps?

I don't think Netflix, Pandora, and their ilk can reasonably be considered SaaS apps, but I would be shocked if Apple did not wink and let these two specific apps through, because they are a checkbox on any device's feature list nowadays.
If they are not given a free pass,you had better believe the developers will attempt to portray (or rewrite) their apps as such -- there is simply too much money on the table for them not to. Then, Apple will have to respond with a "new" version or interpretation of 11.2 (see comment #5 for text) that "clarifies" such things further, and the dance will continue, doing nothing but wasting cycles on both sides and delaying advancements of these sorts of apps on the iOS platform.

Not sure it'll help since the Nexus is built by HTC. I think the only dfrefience is you won't have the SenseUI, which is really very nice.

No -- if anything, it makes things worse.
Steve might say that their intent is to leave SaaS alone, but the actual policy text is deliberately written vaguely enough to cover that class of application:
"11.2 Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected."
There is nothing there specifically attaching this policy only to content subscriptions, or anything specifically excluding SaaS. SaaS by definition provides services within the app, so Apple could (and should, if they were being consistent) reasonably interpret this clause to include all SaaS apps and demand a cut. Steve can say in a terse email that they have no such intention, but Apple has now built up a history of changing interpretations of their policies midstream (and, actually, of changing policies altogether) that most developers no longer trust anything Apple says. We still develop for this undeniably great platform, but more and more it is through gritted teeth.

Here's 11.1 for reference:
"11.1 Apps that unlock or enable additional features or functionality with mechanisms other than the App Store will be rejected."
Note that 11.1 states additional features or additional functionality. The core functionality of Netflix and Pandora, for example, is streaming content. I don't think any special exemption needs to be made for them. The core functionality of a magazine (or other "publishing" app) is also providing content, but content that you purchase and then own, unlike Netflix and Pandora. Steve's response makes the intent of section 11 a little clearer -- Apple is thinking subscription-based content and demo/free trial apps here -- but there is still a lot of wiggle room for interpretation. Surely Apple has the right to tell developers that you can't offer a free demo app in the App Store that requires the user to purchase the full app somewhere other that the App Store? If I develop an app that holds the camera "hostage" by demanding that the user buy credits that expire in 24 hours, shouldn't I expect Apple to reject my attempt at extortion?
Apple does need to explain 11.1 and 11.2 better, but I think the paranoia should be dialed down a bit.

I agree. This is how I've seen it all along. It's all pretty clear to me... I'm not sure why everyone else is so confused.

I think this clarifies a little but at the same time creates more questions. I think apple mostly created this new API for things like newspaper subscriptions and such. And Netflix doesn't redirect you from the app to their site to purchase something, it's merely an extension of how you view Netflix so they do not count. also pandora doesn't charge a time so they have no need for in-app subscription.
Only apps that create new material on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis will probably be required for this new API.

At first I tghuoht it was completely unnecessary for Apple to come out with a new iPhone. However, after taking the time to read all the options and upgrades the new version has to offer, I feel as though I may have to cave in and purchase an iPhone 4, despite the fact my current iPhone is less than 6 months old and working perfectly fine. I love my iPhone, but it's battery life is horrendous. If Apple's stats are correct, the new A4 chip battery would double my current usage time without having to plug in.While I do think the iso4 will be very popular (and of course hard to get at first), I also believe that it will deter people from purchasing an iPad because of its iBook capabilities.

I do agree with all of the ideas you have offered in your post. They're really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very short for newbies. May you please lengthen them a bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.