Apple’s App Store Rejects Readability, Readability Abandons App

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Apple has rejected readability’s self-titled app for the iPhone and iPad, telling the developer that the app violates Apple’s newly-instituted policies on in-app subscriptions. As a result, Readability, whose technology is used by Apple itself in Safari, has abandoned its iOS app, releasing an Open Letter to Apple accusing the company of greed and bad faith.


Readability is a service that strips out online advertising (without the permission of publishers like The Mac Observer) and serves up Web content in a clean, stark manner. The company charges a US$5-month subscription fee for the service, but unlike most ad-blocking services, Readability claims to pay 70% of this money to publishers and authors, keeping the same 30% Apple charges for apps (and now subscriptions) on the App Store.

When Apple unveiled an in-app subscription plan for iOS apps, the company included changes to developer agreements that required content providers offering any form of subscription service on an iOS app to include an in-app purchase option. The company also required that iOS app subscription pricing to be the same or cheaper than other subscription models in order to keep publishers from locking Apple out of the game by simply charging higher prices in-app than they did elsewhere.

This development has newspaper and magazine publishers hot and bothered for two reasons: Having to cut Apple in significantly reduces their own margins, and to add insult to injury, Apple protects consumer data (i.e. our personal data) by default, allowing users to voluntarily opt-in to hand over that data to publishers.

Same As It Ever Was

This topic has been all the rage for the last couple of weeks, but what’s new with Readability is that Apple has made it clear that it intends to go after services, and not just content providers.

Services like Readability charge a subscription that is managed through the company’s Web site. Users then log in from their iOS app to access whatever service they’re paying for, bypassing Apple’s in-app subscription system and the new rules.

Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines say, “Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected,” and the company has now made it clear that it is serious about the “services” part of that verbiage.

“We’re obviously disappointed by this decision, and surprised by the broad language,” the Readability team wrote in its Open Letter. “By including ‘functionality, or services,’ it’s clear that you intend to pursue any subscription-based apps, not merely those of services serving up content.”

The company added:

Before we cool down and come to our senses, we might as well share how we’re feeling right now: we believe that your new policy smacks of greed. Subscription apps like ours represent a tiny sliver of app sales that represent a tiny sliver of your revenue. You’ve achieved much of your success in hardware sales by cultivating an incredibly impressive app ecosystem. Every iPad or iPhone TV ad puts the apps developed by companies like ours front and center. It was a healthy and mutually beneficial dynamic: apps like ours get exposure and you get to show the world how these apps make your hardware shine. That’s why we’re a bit baffled here.

Sweeping Implications

The reality is that Apple’s new stance is likely to be a massively disruptive force in its own ecosystem, and not disruptive in a good way. From Dropbox to to Pandora to to Kindle to Nook to Readability to a host of other online services, these app and services combos add a lot of value to Apple’s iOS ecosystem. In the case of Dropbox and (and others), they fill a significant hole that Apple left open in its mobile platform

Furthermore, in businesses like Amazon’s Kindle or any of the various music streaming services, there simply isn’t any room for Apple to take 30% from a pie that’s already stretched thin by publishers, labels, IP holders, and the needs of the third party services that actually offer the service.

In fact, I think it’s likely that if Apple doesn’t change this policy, all of the music services and ebook competitors won’t be able to do business on Apple’s platform due to simple economics. There just isn’t any more blood in that turnip left for Apple to take such a huge cut.

As superior a platform as iPad/iPhone/iPod touch/iTunes/App Store is, the lack of these very popular third party services will leave Apple at a significant disadvantage should they choose or be forced to go away.

Back to Readability

Some of these points don’t fully apply to Readability. The firm has made it clear that while the economics of Apple’s position impose a heavy burden, the biggest part of its decision to pull out of Apple’s App Store comes down to making a stand on principle.

As a P.S. in its Open Letter, the team wrote, “P.S. We’d we be glad to deliver Readability for iOS – with in-app purchasing – if you’d carve out 70% from your 30% fee and share it with writers and publishers, just as we do.”

While I find the company claiming the moral high ground on Apple to be ironic, at best — remember that Readability’s business model is predicated on presenting my content in a format not of my choosing at a price they have determined with no permission from me, and I have long been on record about people (or companies) that steal my work — I honestly applaud Readability’s stance here.

Apple’s demand for 30% of everything crossing the App Store is obscene, and is no different from the record labels demanding a share of Apple’s hardware profits on sale of the iPod in the early part of the last decade.

Economically speaking, it’s also a little crazy in that denial kind of way, reminding me of the labels wanting more from Pandora and Internet radio stations in royalties than it was possible to generate in revenues. It’s just crazy.

Back to Reality

Apple should reexamine this policy and approach in-app subscriptions from a far more sensible stance. Taking 30% from publishers and developers who use its system is fine, after all it’s Apple’s infrastructure and resources making the subscription possible.

Indeed, as a consumer, I’d FAR rather subscribe to a newspaper or magazine via an in-app purchase where Apple was protecting my information, and Apple stands to make mountains of money from millions of other customers who feel the same way.

But, if I’m going to access a service like any of the above-mentioned services that I am likely to also use on my Mac or from my friend’s PC on occasion, I’d rather manage that subscription through their infrastructure.

Apple prohibiting third-party or self-maintained subscriptions crosses a nasty line. Worse the company’s demand ignores the economic reality of many of its most important high profile apps like Kindle, Pandora (which Apple CEO himself has touted in Apple media events), and other services.

Apple still benefits from those services offering free apps that then access online services or content by being the premier platform for doing so. The company makes significant profits from the sale of each iOS device, profits it does not then share with its developers.

If some developers are able to offer a service that users will pay for and they don’t need Apple’s resources or infrastructure to manage that relationship, that should be considered as part of the game.

In the end, I think Apple will have to make adjustments to this policy. I believe that the company is going to be under tremendous pressure from regulators in the U.S. and the European Union, and I believe that the market itself is going to put pressure on Apple as the economic realities of this policy force some key players from the platform.

Apple should not wait until then, however, and the company should make some adjustments now.

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I posted something similar elsewhere on this topic, but Apple certainly continues to do everything it can to discourage content providers from utilizing their platform. They may have the best devices and ecosystem (and I believe that they do), but they’re pretty much expensive and useless chunks of metal and glass with no content.

They can’t afford this stance when the competition these days is very real. Though I’m not a doom and gloomer, I think this, along with making Lion into a very user unfriendly OS in so many ways is putting them on some very thin ice with people that love their products, myself included.


People are missing the point.

Content providers will like this because they deal directly with Apple.
Retailers and middle-men who were taking advantage of the huge Apple user base are the target. They will leave. I don’t care. I really don’t.


Some of these points don?t fully apply to Readability. The firm has made it clear that while the economics of Apple?s position impose a heavy burden, the biggest part of its decision to pull out of Apple?s App Store comes down to making a stand on principle.

i don’t think you understand what is going on here,  you see Apple is making a stand on “principle”,  they are rejecting an app that is ridiculous,  you don’t seem to have seen what “readability”  was trying to charge for…  something that is free on the Safari Browser…

the only bad thing is you blogger who jump to conclusions and giving a black eye for something that should be commended,  keeping idiotic apps out of the app store so only the idiotic apps end up on Android…

did you really look and see what “readability” was trying to do?  they are wrapping it in…  oh we are “donating”  money to authors,  well in truth no one was gong to buy any app, or “subscribe” to an app that you can get for free…

the “authors”  make their money from advertising,  and not “donations”.... 

this is going to be a lot of hay about a stupid app,  meaning an app that no one would buy anyway.


the bad publicity is real,  well for bloggers anyway,  the common man isn’t going to care about this…  you are going to see Apple come out with a statement possibly if these bloggers turn into headlines,  and it is going to be to the tune of…  “we rejected this app because it tries to charge what iOS does for free”  or along those lines.

you guys out to look into what this company was trying to do… it was going to go no where fast,  and i am glad Apple takes a stand against really worthless apps like this…

let android deal with the worthless apps….


PLEASE RELEASE YOUR PROGRAM ON WP7!! I’d love to have it, and I hate iOS.

Lee Dronick

PLEASE RELEASE YOUR PROGRAM ON WP7!! I?d love to have it, and I hate iOS.

You should go to Readability and tell them.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

For almost 20 years, I have wondered what the relevance of the General Ed Humanities courses that I took as a freshman in college were. I was fortunate enough to be in the Campuswide Honors Program, so I was ostensibly getting the best that these courses, overloaded with silly radical feminist propaganda, had to offer.

Thanks to Apple, I now understand and appreciate a main thesis of those courses. Power structures matter. What Apple has done since it first opened the App Store and required all software for iPhone to be “approved” and meet its ever changing guidelines is create a power structure. None of us really recognized what was going on. For example, I thought their mission was intractable and wished them nothing but grief. But this last week, we learned that their power structure brought them $1.8B in revenues and we now realize that this power structure is what lets them demand 30% of any service that touches an iOS app.

Developers are now reduced to appeals of conscience, appeals that are met with a lot of derision if you judge the typical fanbot response on the message boards. Users see a single-payee system as preserving their privacy, while the have failed all along to appreciate that software developers lose their connection to users when a middleman sits on user information. But users will pay more for Apple-enforced simplicity and privacy, even if nobody quite knows how those higher prices will manifest themselves.

Apple will stick to its guns and ride this out. Readability is a small fish. They want to see what Rhapsody, Pandora, and Amazon do. They already know they could clock-block Sony and get away with it without consequence. Who’s next? Who might actually pony up?


The fact is that Apple is engaging in anticompetitive activities and therefore will most certainly face litigation it cannot win. Think Microsoft of the 1990s. If Apple doesn’t fix this fast they face the very real possibility of extinction because unlike microsoft, Apple is 90% entertainment and 10%.  The world didn’t have a good alternative to Microsoft in the 90s but there are many options to Apple. If Justice gets involved or the EU Apple dies


That was supposed to be 10% productivity


When you can do it already, what is the point of the app? Maybe windows is a good place for it.

For free.
Plus adblock plus filters out malware as I understand it.

Lee Dronick

School holiday?


If Apple doesn?t fix this fast they face the very real possibility of extinction because unlike microsoft, Apple is 90% entertainment and 10%.
hmmmm…. really how do you figure that. Apple is mostly a hardware business. They are more likely 90% hardware 10% software.

I don’t really see their extinction coming soon. Most people buying their hardware find it to be better than average.


apple is an evil company, seek alternatives and be proud you don’t use apple.

Lee Dronick

Yes, it must be a school holiday and homework is either finished or none was assigned.


Apple is evil.  Already forming an apple exit strategy to ditch my ipod touch and ipad.

Bryan Chaffin

i don?t think you understand what is going on here,? you see Apple is making a stand on ?principle? [snip]?

Your reading comprehension skills are lacking, I fear. You misunderstood every single one of my points precisely backwards.

Try reading it again - and read all the words this time - and get back to me with a reasoned opinion.

Bryan Chaffin

Apple is evil.? Already forming an apple exit strategy to ditch my ipod touch and ipad.

Fortunately, you’ll be able to sell it for a solid price, as there are plenty of people that still recognize the value proposition of the iOS platform.

Bryan Chaffin

I’ll add that the point of my piece is that Apple is making a mistake, not that Apple is “evil.”

At least Apple is trying to protect my personal info. smile

Lee Dronick

Your reading comprehension skills are lacking, I fear

And I may add the “readability” of your story is excellent.


if Zino and Kindle leave the iPad, i will be selling my iPad and getting an Android Tablet.
The ipad is merely a tool for me to access the content ive purchased, and if the readers become unavailable then whats the point of keeping the ipad?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

if Zino and Kindle leave the iPad, i will be selling my iPad and getting an Android Tablet.
The ipad is merely a tool for me to access the content ive purchased, and if the readers become unavailable then whats the point of keeping the ipad?

Exactly. Which is why any approach that either finesses more money from developers and publishers or gets them to jump ship from the platform is plain anti-user. I don’t get why the fans don’t get this and haven’t gotten this.


you don?t seem to have seen what ?readability?  was trying to charge for?  something that is free on the Safari Browser?

Everything that is in Safari is also in Readability’s free version.  And you can use it in browsers other than Safari.  I don’t really think you read the article, numb-nuts.


Readability’s frustration confuses me. Readability has the same business model as Apple, yet it is upset at Apple. Namely, Readability sells other people’s content and takes thirty percent giving the creator seventy percent. How is Apple the bad guy when it is doing the same thing? If you want to use Apple’s service, simply raise the price to cover Apple’s cut. 

Further, most people really don’t seem to understand what is going on here. Any application that currently is sold on iTunes could be altered to be offered as a free application on iTunes and then sold as a subscription. Take Angry Bird, which currently sells for a dollar. Under the current arrangement Apple gets 30 percent of any sale. Angry Bird’s developer takes 70 percent. Hardly anybody would argue that is unfair in relation to what other resellers make. Apple hosts the application, markets the store, pays for distribution, and covers the payment processing.

If Apple didn’t charge for subscriptions, the developer of Angry Bird could bypass Apple being paid simply by offering a free application on iTunes that then through a paid subscription gives users the game. Apple would still incur the cost, but Angry Bird would keep all the money. That hardly seems fair. No one expects Walmart to sell at a loss.

The greedy parties here are third party sellers of other people’s content who want to benefit from Apple’s iTunes market, but doesn’t want to pay Apple for that access.


How much you asking? Seriously. I am interested.

Meanwhile, make sure not to shop at any other store anywhere as oddly enough they all want to make a cut of product they sell. Amazon often takes a much bigger cut then Apple’s thirty percent.

Apple is evil.  Already forming an apple exit strategy to ditch my ipod touch and ipad.


Here is somebody who clearly doesn’t understand how anti-trust legislation works. Namely, to be guilty of anti-trust you have to have a monopoly in a relevant market and then abuse that monopoly. For example, Microsoft had a monopoly in desktop operating systems and used the monopoly to force hardware manufactures to kill Netscape in favor of Microsoft’s own browser.

In this case, Apple doesn’t have a monopoly. The relevant market isn’t tablets, but for publication subscriptions. Apple barely has touched this market and competes with traditional outlets like Barnes and Nobles. It probably doesn’t hold a one percent share. When you don’t hold a monopoly you can do what ever you want even if the policy stinks.

Even if the relevant market was tablets, which it isn’t, Apple doesn’t have a monopoly because the market is too new. Google and HP both are getting ready to bring products to market.

The fact is that Apple is engaging in anticompetitive activities and therefore will most certainly face litigation it cannot win.


So let me see:  Readability offers writers and publishers the same 70%/30% cut that Apple would offer to them, but it would do so using the benefits of the App Store’s infrastructure for free—the money that Apple spends on marketing, the ability of Apple’s iOS devices to attract customers, that the App Store’s customers are among the most attractive demographic anywhere, etc., while avoiding the costs of those benefits.  Yes, that is right folks:  Readability wants to be on the App Store and sell its wares on Apple’s App Store for free, and if Apple wants to charge for the benefit of selling on its App Store, Apple is greedy but not vendor, Readability, which wants to earn its 30% unencumbered by any of the costs that Apple pays to establish and operate its App Store and to otherwise make the App Store successful.

Seriously, I had to pinch myself to see whether this was 1 April 2011 and, therefore, some sort of April fool’s joke:  That Readability insistence, apparently without any awareness, that anything less than it being able to sell its wares in Apple’s App Store for free was rapacious, while it collected iits 30% for free, represents not merely greed but a pathologic degree of narcissism.

And either Readability’s joke or pathology—you decide—continued with its generous offer that Apple could let it on its App Store by paying the 70% that it pays to publisher and writers, while leaving it unmolested to collect its 30% commission.  How this is an improvement over its previous offer of nothing, I don’t know.  But it is nice that Readability is willing to negotiate with Apple the terms under which it will consent to present an app to the App Store.

Notwithstanding the generosity of such offers, I suspect that Apple will decline and oblige Readability to resort to setting up its own website, which it says that it prefers anyway to any restrictions imposed by others’ online stores.  And, if Readability is successful in drawing subscribers to its own website, perhaps it will one day consent to returning to the App Store, because all subscribers that Readability or any developer brings to an app from outside the App Store are free of Apple’s regulation and/or commission.  But, of course, Readability will have paid the costs of its own website and marketing to acquire those subscribers, rather than using Apple’s App Store for free.


Meanwhile, make sure not to shop at any other store anywhere as oddly enough they all want to make a cut of product they sell. Amazon often takes a much bigger cut then Apple?s thirty percent.

I really dont care how much Amazon or iBookstore take a “cut” from the publishers. But basically Kindle has the distribution rights to sell e-books in Asia, so I have no choice but to buy e-books from them. Not iBookstore. Zinio has distribution rights as well to sell magazines. iBookstore does not. So as an Asian customer with a Hong Kong credit card, I really NEED to purchase content from these two stores.  Apple iBooks offers no alternatives for me.  Again, i will sell my iPad the same price i need to get an android if Apple and Amazon/Zinio do not have an agreement that allows them to keep their readers on the iOS software.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The greedy parties here are third party sellers of other people?s content who want to benefit from Apple?s iTunes market, but doesn?t want to pay Apple for that access.

I bet they’d be more than happy to not have to be in the store to distribute their app to iOS users given the new store rules. But that’s not an option.

Terrin, for your thesis to be complete and palatable, you need to address this. Because it’s the lynchpin of how Apple can even begin to go there with these policies that just get worse and worse.


Bosco:  You are wrong on the facts.  Apple’s new subscription policy expressly provides that any developer can acquire subscribers from outside the App Store and bring those subscribers to the app that he/it provides in the App Store and that those subscribers are not subject in anyway to Apple’s commission or its App Store regulations.

That is also why Bryan is wrong about the U.S. antitrust implications.  It is readily apparent to any antitrust lawyer that, while Apple’s new subscription policy is not without antitrust risks, because these are prima facie issues, Apple’s new policy was carefully vetted and designed by Apple’s antitrust counsel.  First, Apple is not the gatekeeper for iOS customers.  As I wrote, supra, any developer can bring subscribers from outside of the App Store to his/its app and, therefore, to iOS customers and, thus, completely avoid Apple’s commission and regulations.

Second, Apple’ App Store is far from the only game in town.  There is the Android Market Place with its One Pass paywall for subscriptions; Amazon is also available; and, of course, any developer/publisher/service provider can, as Readability says it will do, build its own website to acquire its subscribers through its website.  In addition, the ranks of such competition is growing rapidly:  HP will set up its own store for its Web OS, and other Android vendors will probably also enter the fray.  There is plenty of competition for the App Store, and there will be plenty more, but all of them are likely to charge monetary or non-monetary commission that is similar to what Apple charge for its App Store, and some of that commission is likely to be shifted to the subscriber, as Google does by shifting much of its commission to subscriber by taking the subscriber’s personal/private information to use as it will.  So the App Store has a lot of competition, but all of it will be charging a substantial monetary or non-monetary commission to cover its costs.  Thus, from the perspectives of the developers and the subscriber, you take your pick and pay your costs.

Florian Mueller, an observer of such matters that I respect, has suggested that Apple could be in violation of antitrust law, if apps for he iOS could be viewed as a relevant aftermarket.  I think Mr. Mueller is wrong for the first reasons, supra:  Apple isn’t the gatekeeper for iOS apps and/or customers.  Apple simply requires that, if you don’t wish to meet its terms for marketing and/or sell on its App Store, you acquire your subscribers on your own, either on another store or from your own website.  Thus, Apple is affording those, who don’t wish to pay its 30%, the opportunity reach iOS customers without having to do so, and Apple is affording those, who decline to pay its 30%, the opportunity to compete with its App Store.  Indeed, Apple is even requiring that those, who don’t meet its terms, compete against it, rather than use its infrastructure for free or on terms of their own choosing.

It is unlikely that Apple’s business executive came up with those terms on their own.  Rather, that appears to be the work of outside antitrust counsel, and I am fairly certain that counsel’s review and design of the Apple’s subscription policies are also designed to accommodate the EU’s competition law, though the EU is a more difficult challenge, because, rather than merely assuring the vitality of the ability to compete, as does U.S. antitrust law, the EU’s regulators sometimes move beyond economic rational to enforcing social policy/values.

As the App Store is revolutionary, application of antitrust law to such a new venture is uncertain for even the most expert of lawyers.  However, I think that from the perspective of antitrust law, Apple’s new subscription policy has been well crafted to place Apple in strong position to resist any antitrust challenge.


Where was the hue and cry when Amazon was charging 70% and giving the authors/publishers a paltry 30% (until Dec 2010)?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Apple isn?t the gatekeeper for iOS apps and/or customers.? Apple simply requires that, if you don?t wish to meet its terms for marketing and/or sell on its App Store, you acquire your subscribers on your own, either on another store or from your own website.

Nemo, you may not legitimately widely distribute a native iOS app without it being approved by Apple and sold on the App Store. Ergo, if you want to widely distribute a native iOS app, you must do so through the App Store.

I’m not and never have said that that arrangement should draw regulatory scrutiny, although I’m a realist knowing that it probably will from the EU and is a wildcard from US DOJ/FTC.

I think users and developers should be aware of how this power structure was erected and recognize what gives Apple the power to enact such policies that seem genuinely unfair.


Well, there is nothing per se illegal about Apple requiring prior approval for an app to appear on its App Store, unless one can show that Apple is denying approval to avoid or hinder competition or that Apple’s approval process, even without intent, has the effect of hindering competition.  And for the reasons that I stated, supra, I don’t think that is the case.

And Apple’s subscription policy doesn’t seem unfair to me as a matter of law, and I am something of an expert on what the law requires with respect to fairness in competition.

Bryan Chaffin

Please note that I did not say Apple is violating antitrust laws. What I said was that Apple will receive pressure from the DoJ and the FTC (I really should have specified “and/or”) as well as EU regulatory agencies to modify this policy.

And I stand behind that assertion. Just as EU agencies (and national agencies and consumer watchdog groups within the EU) put pressure on Apple to drop DRM restrictions on iTunes music - even though it was the labels that behind those restrictions - many of those same watchdog and regulatory authorities are going to find reason to complain about the way Apple is going about this.

While the U.S. is infinitely more laissez-faire than Europe, the current DoJ has been very interested in reminding big business that it still exists as a prosecutorial watchdog body. I believe the same applies to the FTC.


I just think people will adapt to the new reality. I think Apple has the best stuff right now and there isn’t a competitor that’s better.


I wonder if Nemo has ever noticed that including the word “supra” in virtually every comment thread does not add any useful information. (If you have “stated” something—past tense—by definition it was ‘above’ or ‘before’.) However, it does add an “I’M A LAWYER! I’M A LAWYER!” pomposity to his posts.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I just read it as “dude!”. Makes the conversation more entertaining.

Bryan’s point is spot on. It’s not a question of legality of actions, it’s a question of perception by the regulators and what they feel they want to accomplish, and that becomes part of the reality Apple has to navigate.

That said, having 75% market share of the tablet (Q4, with Android at 22% quel surprise!) market most definitely means a lot of aggrieved parties when they try ratcheting up their control and their take. Instead of developers who rolled over like submissive bitches (I use that term in an entirely technical sense and the link is SFW) when the App Store was first launched, Apple is pissing off the content vendors, whose vision is not write once, deploy Apple. It’s write once, deploy everywhere. Conflicting interests are unavoidable, and unavoidably public. Yet another downside of trying to set up a single/preferred choke point for sales of apps and content.


Blah blah blah…. Apple will do whatever they want because they can.  They’re not protecting your subscriber information, they own it completely and are leveraging it for their own iAds sales. Not sharing it with others for free is called protecting their property, you. Oh, and I love how people make claims that other services charge much more than Apple without first showing evidence. When I worked for Best Buy we sold computers that had a mark up of 5%, however accessories, like cables had mark ups significantly higher, some as high as 20%. The difference between the App Store and Best Buy is that you can buy your accessories from Target if you want, you have no recourse if you want an app on iOS.

But anyone who had bought an iPhone has known this for two years now, so you’ll continue pouring your money and personal information into Apple’s coffers and continue to claim you have the best product in the world. While I enjoy the unique ability of Android to purchase apps and content anywhere that is willing to sell them to me.

I buy apps directly from EA, Gameloft, and Rovio. I’m not restricted by a power structure designed around limiting my power. I download 500 megabyte files directly to my phone, and no one bats an eye.  I can use my phone as a mobile hotspot if I choose to. If doing any of these things was remotely appealing to an iOS user they would not have bought an iPhone.

Welcome to 1984 cult of Apple, just a short time ago the Google free states were close personal allies of the Apple Republic, but none of you would remember that since all mention of that time has been purged from your iDevice. Soon you will hear that the hated enemy Microsoft Empire, has invaded once pristine and backwards Noklandia. I can’t wait to see the spin.


Bryan:  I stand corrected, for I too think that some regulator, particularly in the EU, may take exception to Apple’s subscription policy, but that regulator or those regulators will be pressed to establish the anti-competitive effect of Apple’s subscription policy as the grounds for its/their objections.



I have avoided responding to this for several reasons. For one, I’m swamped out here in the field, and have only intermittent internet access. Two, I dislike contention. Controversy is okay, and difference of opinion is a healthy and necessary ingredient for growth, but contention is poisonous and divisive; it loses both hearts and minds. But third, I am simply not able to get worked up about this issue, although I have followed it here and elsewhere. Market forces, and not the opinions of app developers, publishers, users of Apple products, or even, I argue, the execs at Apple will decide this. Market forces will. Capitalism is a wonderful thing. Just ask the Communist Party in China. They can’t get enough of it (role over Mao).

I am not going rehash any of the well-reasoned arguments above on both (actually three) sides of this issue. Rather I just want to cite a basic principle that I heard from this guy, Bryan Chaffin of ‘The Apple Context Machine’ podcast (oh, was that you?), namely that Apple is not your friend, and anyone, if I have the rest of his quote correctly, who does not understand that is an idiot. I recommend that you find the nearest mirror and ask that guy to repeat this back to you.

Kidding aside, I offer an analogy (humour me). It is not perfect, specifically it lacks a monetisation component relevant to this discussion; that’s why it’s an analogue and not a homologue. My point is to describe Apple’s relationship to its environment as I see it. I think this relationship describes why these issues will continue to arise, and what Apple’s response is likely to continue to be.

If Apple were a vessel, what type of vessel (boat) would it be? Answer:  a fast-attack sub, specifically an attack sub in time of war. Gliding unseen, cloaked in stealth, a hunter-killer that is the terror of its enemies, annihilating the competition while furthering the boundaries of its turf, forever riding that thin line between speed and the element of surprise. A perfect predator.

And that’s what we like about consummate predators; they are sleek, powerful, independent, self-reliant, beautiful to behold, but lest we forget, dangerous to be around. They are not our friends. They have their own agenda, their own mission, and do not take kindly to anything getting in their way (having lived in Africa as a kid, I observed that lions tend to eviscerate hyenas that become too annoying).

The developer community, what boat would they be? A community of fishing trawlers. They cast their nets and hope to come up with a nice catch. Their relationship to the attack sub in wartime is this; so long as that sub patrols their waters, they can ply those waters and make a living, knowing that they have a safe haven. The problem is, from time to time, not too often but enough to be a nuisance, the sub tears a hole in a trawler’s net, or it up-periscopes through someone’s deck, leaving the crew bailing for their lives. Nothing personal, they just got in the way.

What do you think the sub’s captain would say if the skippers of the trawlers demanded, or even requested, that they have a say in where the boat would be and when, that there be printed guidelines of the same, and also that it list where and when a strike on an enemy target would take place - just so that they could be prepared and not be collateral damage? I think the captain’s reply would not be fit for print, but the translation would be this: ‘It’s a big ocean. I didn’t ask you to come here; you chose to be here because of my presence. This is not a democracy; it’s not open to a vote. If you don’t want to fish here, there’s plenty more ocean for you to trawl’. Something like that.

The sub and the trawlers do not share the same agenda. The last thing an attack sub needs is to have its movements dictated by committee. It needs to be stealthy, fast, nimble and independent to be successful. This is exactly what Apple needs to be. It wants total control over its whole operation, beholden to no one. Developers and even partners are not a monolith. They don’t share the same opinions, many compete against each other. The last thing Apple wants to do is give them a say and have its movements restricted and telegraphed to its competition, and lose the advantage of surprise and speed.

The trawlers are trying to make a living, while the attack sub is trying to win a war. If the boat captain’s tactics are not sound, he dies. As it should be. Apple is trying to win a war in which there have been and will be casualties. If its tactics are not sound, or its model inappropriate for this environment, it dies, as it should be. Market forces will reward or punish it. If Apple succeeds, vessels will no doubt continue to ply it waters. In the meantime, everyone else can decide for themselves whether the terms of engagement are favourable to their needs, as it should be.

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