Apple: You say you want a revolution?

Despotic dictators, your days are numbered. Tempers have hit the boiling point. The people have had enough and are taking to the streets. Revolution is in the air.

I'm not talking about Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, or Libya (though I certainly could be). I'm talking about Apple and its app developers -- the army of thousands who, perhaps more than anyone else besides Steve Jobs, have made the iPhone and iPad the "magical, life-changing" devices Apple purports them to be.

[ Also on InfoWorld.com: Cringely says the machines are winning, and IBM's Watson makes it official -- humanity is toast. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Apple's recent app store diktat --- it will exact a 30 percent tax on every subscription made via the iTunes Store, developers can't offer a better deal elsewhere, and Cupertino will retain control over customer data --- has inspired a number of major mainstream app developers to go public with their discontent in a way we haven't seen before.

Rhapsody was the first to cry foul, saying the 30-point vig will cripple low-margin businesses like its streaming music service. Its official statement:

An Apple-imposed arrangement that requires us to pay 30 per cent of our revenue to Apple, in addition to content fees that we pay to the music labels, publishers and artists, is economically untenable. The bottom line is: we would not be able to offer our service through the iTunes store if subjected to Apple's 30 per cent monthly fee vs a typical 2.5 per cent credit card fee.

Richard Jones, co-founder of the popular Last.fm music sharing service, says Apple has performed an act on them usually only witnessed in prison shower stalls, per the Register.

It's not just the tunesmiths singing the blues. Richard Ziade, CEO of Readability, whose app lets people enjoy online content without those annoying ads or ubiquitous social media sharing buttons (like the ones you see to the left), complains that his company's latest app was rejected because it offered users a way to subscribe that was outside Apple's parameters.

In an open letter to Apple he writes:

We believe that your new policy smacks of greed. Subscription apps like ours represent a tiny sliver of app sales that represent a tiny sliver of your revenue. You've achieved much of your success in hardware sales by cultivating an incredibly impressive app ecosystem. Every iPad or iPhone TV ad puts the apps developed by companies like ours front and center. It was a healthy and mutually beneficial dynamic: apps like ours get exposure and you get to show the world how these apps make your hardware shine. That's why we're a bit baffled here.

Ziade says Readability is turning away from the app store and toward "the free-form nature of the Web," but offers to return if Apple promises to donate 70 percent of its revenues from Readability subs to writers and editors, as Readability does.

In a characteristically terse email missive, Steve Jobs responded to one app developer by saying, "We created subscriptions for publishing apps, not SaaS apps." But with apps like Readability --- or, for that matter, media streaming -- the line between content and service is a tad blurry.

Given a choice between equally priced alternatives, users will invariably go for the option with the least amount of friction, which is where the Apple in-apps purchase plan stands to win. Would you rather tap once to make a purchase or fire up your browser and hunt down the subscription link on the publisher's website? Yep, that's what I thought.

Thus, we return yet again to that old chestnut, the battle between open and closed systems. Open systems tend to be messy, chaotic, and unpredictable, but usually spread the wealth more evenly. Closed systems can be brutally efficient and reliable, but tend to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a select few. That's the same in technology or politics.

History tends to favor open systems in the long run. And if Apple doesn't provide one, Google surely will. My prediction: Apple will eventually back down, slightly -- certainly after more viable competitors to the iPad arrive, beginning with the Motorola Xoom some time next month -- except it won't be characterized as backing down so much as "clarifying" the rules.

Because when the mob is at the palace gates demanding entry, your options shrink in a hurry. Even Emperor Jobs realizes that.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Applehardware systemstablet PCslaptops

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?