The Information: Apple’s App Store concessions are making things worse

“Apple needs to take bigger action, faster.”

From Martin Peers and Josh Sisco’s The Briefing mailed Thursday to The Information subscribers ($):

Law schools may want to start introducing a new program to train lawyers in interpreting Apple’s App Store rules. The company’s latest changes, introduced to settle a Japanese antitrust investigation, add a layer of complexity to already-opaque rules. The rules have long had an element of arbitrariness, treating developers differently, as The Information’s founder has written. But the latest batch of changes—including those last week settling a developer lawsuit—only make matters worse.

For instance, the Japanese agreement this week allows developers of “reader apps”—those apps that let people access previously-purchased content or subscriptions—to put a link inside their apps to outside websites where users can pay for their content. Japan’s Fair Trade Commission indicated e-book apps were covered by the changes. That makes sense: You can read previously-purchased books on apps like Amazon’s Kindle.

The change implies Apple will let Kindle put in a link to its store website for “account management”—that presumably means future book purchases. If so, shouldn’t Epic Games have the right to put in a similar link to let people buy games on its website? (Apple won’t comment on the new rules’ impact on individual apps). Another anomaly is Match.com, the subscription dating app, which we hear doesn’t consider itself a reader app. That means it doesn’t plan to add a link to an external payment option. But what’s the difference between a subscription service like Match and a music or video streaming subscription service?

By dealing with the onslaught of investigations and legal actions through tiny concessions made one at a time, Apple is trying to avoid stalling its App Store profit engine. But these piecemeal moves, by creating complexity and aggravating disparate treatment, may only worsen  the situation. (Even Spotify, which benefits from the changes, said they didn’t go far enough). It also adds to the uncertainty about the future profits of the App Store, which should be a big deal for investors. Legislation coming out of Korea and pending elsewhere mean wholesale changes are likely. Apple needs to take bigger action, faster.

My take: Apple’s concessions are a work in progress.

5 Comments

  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. The Information: Apple’s App Store concessions are making things worse.” —- Mr. Market seems to like Apple’s concession and that speaks volumes!

    4
    September 3, 2021
  2. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    Speaking of concessions, we bandparent-volunteered for the high school football game concession stands. “Concession stands” sell products not produced by the host or reseller. Like Raisinets, M&Ms, etc. But we also made hot dogs, nachos, etc. Everything priced so that the band could use the profits to take care of the band’s bills/budget.

    Simple analogy extended to Apple App Store. Apple’s made concessions from the beginning & continues to evolve its concession stand model.

    5
    September 3, 2021
    • Fred Stein said:
      Great analogy, Romeo. Let’s go further.

      Major League sports teams all have local franchises which are monopolies, really. The concessions there sell branded beverages at margins far above 30% – for soft drinks its above 70%. Those brands DO NOT complain. They’re happy to keep their brand in public view.

      And city managers, make concessions (pun intended) on local taxes to get the owners to re-locate to their city.

      4
      September 3, 2021
  3. Gregg Thurman said:
    I read this 4X before responding. The author is speculating under the cloud of factual truth, then hedges his speculation with words like “may”.

    Very well written but no meat to support his speculation.

    1
    September 3, 2021

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