Sony App Rejection Raises App Store Concerns

Sony’s Reader ebook app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch was apparently rejected by Apple’s App Store reviewers, and the reasoning behind the move has left confusion and concern in its wake. On its Reader Web site, Sony claimed its iOS app was rejected because of a sudden change in the way Apple handles approval policies.

“Unfortunately, with little notice, Apple changed the way it enforces its rules and this will prevent the current version of the Reader for iPhone from being available in the app store,” Sony stated on its Reader Web site. “We opened a dialog with Apple to see if we can come up with an equitable resolution but reached an impasse at this time.”

Questions surround Sony’s Reader app rejection

The Web site didn’t elaborate on what those changes were, but Sony digital reading division president Steve Haber told the New York Times that from now on in-app purchases must be handled through Apple. Assuming running in-app purchases through Apple is the issue, however, that doesn’t exactly qualify as a sudden change since that’s been the policy ever since the App Store was launched.

Apple’s current policy lets the company take a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases, which can range from unlocking new app features to purchasing single magazine issues or books.

Companies that don’t want to share that revenue with Apple jump users out of the app and into Mobile Safari to make purchases through a Web site — which is exactly what Amazon does with its Kindle ebook reader app. Tapping the in-app Kindle Store button on an iOS device launches Safari and opens the Web-based Kindle book store.

While Apple’s policy seems fairly straightforward, the New York Times muddies the waters by stating “The company has told some applications developers, including Sony, that they can no longer sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.”

Assuming the information the NYT obtained is correct, the policy would effectively kill the iPad as a digital magazine and book reader platform since publishers wouldn’t have any means of providing content to customers — and that’s a move Apple isn’t likely to make since customers would have absolutely no way of viewing their books and magazines in applications.

If that’s what Apple plans, then many ebook customers will likely pass up the iPad in favor of dedicated ebook reader devices or switch to other tablet and smartphone platforms for their digital books and magazines.

Without either side offering up more information, what seems more likely is that Sony wanted to offer in-app ebook purchases, but didn’t want to share revenue with Apple.

So far, Sony’s Reader App Store rejection is leaving more questions than answers, and Apple isn’t commenting on its decision. We’re waiting to see if Sony is willing to share more details, and will report back with any information they provide.