Apple vs. Sony

Tue 01 February 2011 by Kevin van Haaren

Full disclosure: I own Apple stock and am a (paying) member of the Apple iOS developers program, although i've no apps in the app store.

Well in typical Apple vague as shit manner they've muddied up the waters of how ebook apps have to work on iOS devices. Apple rejected an app from Sony that, according to Sony was for reading ebooks on iOS devices, specifically books people bought from Sony's ebook store for their Sony ebook readers.

Apple never talks about apps it's rejected, and recommends dev not talk about them either. Probably good advice, it's easy to piss off Apple and hard to un-piss them off after. Sony probably figures they're big enough to get away with it, but Apple really doesn't care how big you are.

Anyway, all we know about the app is what Sony says it submitted, which according to the New York Times story is an app which works just like the Kindle application. The Kindle app has a button labeled "Kindle Store". Pressing that button opens Safari to the Kindle store at That's it. You can't search for authors or titles in the app, and can't buy anything in the app.

Assuming that's true (and I wouldn't be surprised to find Sony shading the truth somewhat) then it would appear Apple has changed it's policy regarding apps in the app store.

In a clarifying statement (which you just know pissed them off having to issue,) Apple said:

We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines. We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.

First they claim they aren't changing terms or guidlines, but their very next statement is "We are now requiring," (emphasis mine) which implies that they weren't previously requiring this and therefore it's a new requirment. Ugh.

"If an app offers the customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app." It doesn't say if the company offers ability to purchase books outside of the app, it says if the app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app. Sounds like the Kindle button is no longer allowed. But really that's just a web link. If you offer a link in your app to someone else's store, such as a link to Baen's ebook store, which has all DRM free books in many formats, or Fictionwise, which has some DRM free books, is that no longer allowed, even if it isn't your store?

What about Amazon's store app? This is separate from the Kindle app. It allows you to search for MP3 downloads, but you can't buy them, only add them to your wishlist for purchase from your computer later. Is this allowed (Apple's statement only references books, but i imagine it applies to all digital content purchases)? If they duplicated this in the Kindle app for books -- searching and browsing but no puchases just wishlists, is that OK? If I were Apple this would irritate me more than the current link to Safari does.

So as a stock holder, what do I think? Overall I think Apple is starting to get just a bit greedy on wanting a cut of every purchase made with an iOS device (I'm sure they're doing this with the near field networking they're setting up for adding to iphones sometime in the future as well, if you want to use it Apple will need a cut.)

Am I selling my stock? Hell no. They've got a ways to go before i reach that point. Besides, I'm not sure any of the interpertations of this are correct. Two sentances from Apple and a story from Sony (I really am not fond of Sony, they are the original "lock it up" device maker, the reason they've never made it in the digital music player market is their initial insistance on using ATRAC only, no support for MP3 at all.)

When Apple can release an app for the Sony e-reader that lets me buy iBooks I'll be more concerned about Sony's welfare on iOS devices.