Apple tightens its grip on the app world

Uh-oh: the old 'Apple's ecosystem is too closed' row has heated up again. Last year, you might recall, there was periodic rage every time Apple banned an app from the App Store, as it drew attention to the fact that the Store - where Apple takes a 30% cut of everything users pay - is the only legit way of getting software onto iOS devices. Well, people have stopped grumbling a bit about that since Apple clarified its rules late last year. But now something else has set tongues wagging.

Apple has just launched in-app subscriptions for iOS apps. What that means is that apps that require users to pay a regular fee - like, for example, Rupert Murdoch's new magazine app The Daily - can do it through a nifty built-in system within the App Store rather than forcing users to sign up and enter credit card details somewhere else. OK, that seems useful. Of course, in-app subscriptions give Apple a 30% cut, just like app purchases do. But that's alright, right? App makers can offer a more expensive subscription in-app or a cheaper one outside. Users can choose, price or convenience. And app makers who don't like the new facility can just ignore it.

Except: no. Because Apple's new facility comes with new rules. Apps that offer a service that requires regular payment now have to offer the in-app subscription option. And it can't cost any more than a subscription made outside the App Store. So a service like Spotify - which right now charges £10 a month for Premium access that enables the iPhone app - has to offer a £10 subscription in-app, even though Apple will take 30%.

This is pretty harsh, and has led to some grumbling online. 'Apple has the right to impose a 30% fee... But that doesn’t mean they aren’t being obscenely greedy,' one tech blogger wrote. And some app developers are livid. 'An Apple-imposed arrangement that requires us to pay 30 percent of our revenue to Apple, in addition to content fees that we pay to the music labels, publishers and artists, is economically untenable,' they said in a furious statement. 'We will be collaborating with our market peers in determining an appropriate legal and business response to this latest development.' That's legal for 'you'd better lawyer up, ***hole.'

Where will this latest spat end? Probably in everyone giving in and Apple getting its way. Ho hum...

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