On Thursday, Folio posted a piece about the tight control Apple keeps (or at least tries to) over what goes into its app store. Some of it was already well known, such as Apple’s rejection of third-party development environments which caused Wired and Adobe to have to create a separate iPad version of the Wired magazine app. But particularly interesting was this bit about Sports Illustrated:
More recently, a source told FOLIO: that Sports Illustrated was forced to withdraw its subscription model for an iPad app, even though the magazine felt like it was following similar models of the Wall Street Journal and Wired by allowing print subscribers to access the iPad version free this year, with new readers buying the content a month at a time. Apple is said to have forced SI to change the offer to single copy purchase. SI declined to comment about whether it had to change its subscription model but a spokesperson did say, “We’re working with several partners to develop our subscription platform which we hope to introduce later this year.”
Lack of subscription options, coupled with paper-equivalent pricing, has been a major cause for complaint about iPad magazine apps so far. If Apple doesn’t want magazines to offer subscriptions, that would certainly explain a lot.
Furthermore, Apple doesn’t seem to offer a lot of guidance ahead of time. Folio quotes a developer who sent Apple a detailed message inquiring about what kind of usage tracking it could put in its application, and getting a response that said “We won’t comment until you submit the app.” This means that developing for Apple is often a gamble, since it’s impossible to know what Apple will cavil at until the developer has poured a great deal of time and effort into its product.
Of course, without any sort of serious competition to the iPad in the Internet tablet space, Apple is in a very good position to continue enforcing these restrictions. As long as they have the monopoly on tablet readers’ eyeballs, they can ask developers to jump through any hoops they want and the developers will have little choice but to comply.