Apple strong arms digital publishers

As I mentioned in a previous post, Apple’s policy going forward for digital content basically says that if you allow import of purchases made outside of Apple into your app that you must also allow the same purchase capability inside of your application.

That’s a fine stance in theory, but it’s tantamount to shutting down any digital catalog over about 100 items.  The reason?  No API.  iTunes Connect, the service which lets you manage your app submissions, GameCenter content, as well as in-app purchase content.

If Apple were being a good partner, here’s how they would have done this:

  1. Develop an API for iTunes Connect.  Test it and roll it out. 
  2. Announce their decision, and apply it for new apps only.  Old apps are grandfathered for the next period of time.
  3. Give publishers 6 months to get on board with the new regulations, only this time using an API.
  4. Now start enforcement.

This is how pretty much any breaking change works in any other product management situation out there.  Does Apple have to do this?  No.  Of course not.

But it can’t expect people to call it “nice” or “friendly” either.

You might ask: why is an API critical?  Well let me explain the setup process for in-app purchases.  This is something you have to do for each item.

  1. Go to your app.
  2. Click to manage in-app purchases.
  3. Select the app you want to enable in-app purchases for.
  4. Enter the 7 fields necessary to describe your in-app purchase.
  5. You have to test your in-app purchase in the sandbox.
  6. After testing, click “Approve”, meaning you’ve signed off on it.  Not Apple yet though!
  7. Submit your Binary for approval by Apple.
  8. Wait.  There are 8 possible statuses (statii?) in the whole process.
  9. Approved!  Hopefully.

Also not to mention the limitations to in-app purchases:

  • Only allows a catalog of 3000 items.  How many Kindle or NOOKBooks are out there?  How could anyone with a large catalog abide by this?  Multiple apps?  Amazon’s Nonfiction > Biography Book app?

Some more articles about the status of APIs at Apple for iTunes Connect:

Am I wrong here?  I don’t see others talking about the lack of API as one of the biggest inhibitors to adoption of this new requirement.  Obviously the 30% is a killer.

Finally, it remains to be seen if Apple will enforce “parity” — meaning if you sell it externally you HAVE to sell it internally.  I can’t see how they could right now.

And seriously, I can’t imagine them taking down the Kindle or Nook readers without huge backlash.  Which means that this may not be a slippery slope after all, just a way to stop it from getting worse.