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Climbdown

Well, well. Apple may be provoking ever-greater hand-wringing with their razor-tight control of the iOS App Store, but let it not be said that they don't ever climb down. A few months ago, Apple provoked outrage with a new rule concerning apps that involve regular subscription services.

The rule was introduced when Apple added a way for app makers to let users sign up for regular payments through Apple's in-app payments system. That was designed to let publishers give users a way to subscribe to magazines through the magazine's app. Of course, companies could let users subscribe elsewhere too. But the rule stated that subscription services had to offer an in-app way of buying the service, and it had to cost no more than the out-of-app way - even though that involved Apple taking a 30% cut.

Here's the offending language:

11.13 Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.

This led to a bunch of apps flouncing out of the App Store as they couldn't handle Apple's effective 30% cut requirement. Most notably, Read-It-Later service Readability wrote an angry open letter to Appleprotesting the move.

Well, now it seems Apple have reversed course a bit. New language has been added to the App Store guidelines to the effect that services don't have to provide an in-app subscription option, and if they do, it can be more expensive. The only restriction - not an insignificant one - is that they can't link users to the outside purchase option from within the app. That means that the 'buy books' link in Amazon's Kindle app, for example, will disappear.

Still, we think most publishers will be happy with that. Readability said on Twitter that "Based on the app policy changes that surfaced today, we’re going to revisit our options for iOS. Stay tuned!"

So next time you complain about Steve Jobs' iron-fist control of iOS, remember that the fist does open a crack every now and then to let some rainbow in. Or out. Or something.

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