Tuesday, February 1, 2011

NYT says Apple has dramatically changed its app store purchasing policies, but evidence for a change is lacking

Two reporters for the New York Times have written a story that claims that Apple has changed its application development policies concerning in-app AND out of app purchases. If true, it would construct a Berlin Wall around iOS devices, if not it will only be another example of speculation gone awry.

The story by Claire Cain Miller and Miguel Helft states that Apple 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." The move supposedly would effect applications such as Amazon's Kindle app which jumps from outside the app to Safari so that owners can navigate the Amazon online store to shop for material that can be used in the Kindle app.
The reporters, however, did not get any comments directly from Apple or Amazon. As a result, the story speculates that this is a dramatic change in Apple policies. And it would be, if true. If Apple is closing their iOS devices completely to content bought outside the device it would be an incredible move, and one that I think most developers would consider the end of the line for cooperation with Apple.

Having read the section of the iOS developer agreement that is at the center of the debate I see that the section makes clear that all in-app purchases must go through the iTunes App Store. This doesn't represent a change in policy -- developers have known that you can't try to bypass the app store within your iOS app. If the Sony Reader app would allow users to buy books through the Sony Reader Store from within the app itself this would be an obvious violation of the terms of the developer agreement.

Of course, all this could be cleared up if Apple would comment on the story, but we all know Apple is slow to respond to stories in the press -- and there are certainly plenty of those. But in this case, especially if the NYT has gone a bit far in its reporting, it would benefit the company to make clear if there has been a dramatic change in its application development guidelines.