Apple’s incredible issues have made headlines again this week – not just once, but twice.
First, there were two additional EU incredible investigations, the latest in a lengthy investigation into Apple’s alleged anti-competitive behavior. The neglected list includes Congress, the judiciary, several United States, the EU, France, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
Then Apple pulls the Basecamp email application from the App Store, a few days after approval …
Most of Apple’s distrust issues center in the App Store, but not all: the company that acts as an effective monopoly, able to force developers to pay a 15% or 30% commission on all app sales, app purchases and subscriptions – and Apple’s own Able to give applications and services a competitive advantage over third parties.
Apple has so far denied all wrongdoing and has largely refused to change the way it is handled. For several years, the only exception was reducing commissions for application subscriptions, which increased from 30% to 15% the following year.
Apple’s Incredibles: Competitive Philosophy
Any time the problem gives the news, you can see the polarized view in the comments. One approach is the Apple App Store and the devices that the market has created for it and it can set its own rules created if developers don’t like it, they can create apps for Android devices instead.
The opposite view is that the iOS market is so big and so profitable, it’s not unrealistic for developers to avoid. They must have an iOS application and be forced to agree to any terms that Apple sets.
I have observed before that this is a cultural division in part. Americans are more likely to object to corporations and object to government intervention; Europeans are likely to agree with governments and object to corporations gaining as much power as they please.
Some may say that my European bias is evident in this piece. But the fact that Apple is on fire in the United States and elsewhere implies that it is not just a cultural clash. I truly believe that the tide is turning it around – and Apple faces a growing risk of discovering itself on the wrong side of history with its own ‘our bat and ball, our rules’ approach.
Right now, developers care more than consumers – but that’s only because developers feel pain first. Ultimately, it hurts customers: that’s the whole point of the no-confidence motion. Any business expense, from the rent of a building to the 30% commission paid to Apple, is a price to pay from the people who buy the applications.
Apple’s commissions also force customers to go through unnecessary hoops. For example, I reached the end of a book on the Kindle app, it’s Apple’s policy that gets me out of the app and goes to the Amazon website to buy another book from the same author. (And no, Amazon and its authors can’t just take commissions: there are no margins in books to make this possible.)
It’s about arbitrary rules as well as commissions
And it’s not just Apple’s commissions commissions, it’s the voluntary rules the company makes, and more effectively it enforces them – or not.
Greg Barbosa noted that Hey and Netflix behave exactly the same way, but Apple behaves completely differently:
Apple does not treat all apps and applications the same for their App Store.
Here are the phrases for Hey and Netflix’s iOS apps. pic.twitter.com/XovTfhZdhA
– Greg Barbosa (@GregBarbosa) June 16, 2020
David Heinmeier Hanson of Basecamp noted that there was also inconsistency in how Apple handled two applications from the same developer.
But it is propagandistically false and inappropriate. The Basecamp app store offers access to subscriptions purchased elsewhere for YEARS. The store is doing apps perfectly. Even other email apps! Here are some examples: pic.twitter.com/MYC1KF1Xfr
– DHH (@DHH) June 16, 2020
Apple then tried to justify that the App Store had separate rules for ‘consumer’ and ‘business’ applications. As my colleague Benjamin Mayo mentioned: There is only one problem with this: it does not happen.
Okay maybe I gave Apple a lot more credit here. This ‘business application’ distinction is not written in the guidelines and is subject to stupidity. https://t.co/ATjevXITf3 https://t.co/tR43h2mSvb
– Benjamin Mayo (@bajamayo) June 16, 2020
And he’s just one person away from showing the impossibility of making such a difference anyway for any great application. Is an email application a customer or a business one? A: It depends on how you use it. John Gruber summed it up:
What is the iPhone itself? A business device or consumer product?
Developers should feel that Apple is on their side, but even apps with their apps by Apple say they don’t feel that way. Instead, Apple is an entity that can decide to kill their business at any time and for any reason.
Mercedes developer Daniel Jalakut See this thread, for example:
I don’t know what my breaking point is, because I still love Apple platforms so much. It’s just really a shame that for so many years there has been opposition from developers who might otherwise be a further booster of Apple’s technology.
– Daniel Jalkut (@Danielpunkas) June 16, 2020
There are many more such posts on Twitter and the blogsphere.
Apple can be a good guy or a bad guy here
So there’s a much bigger problem here than Apple’s commissions when it comes to App Store purchases, and it treats its own apps differently from competitors. The fact is that Apple holds a huge amount of power over all developers and gives every idea of putting this power on a whim.
Once upon a time Apple could say ‘we’re just a company, that’s how we manage it, if you don’t like it go somewhere else.’ But now it is not reasonable to assume that the gatekeeper of one is half a billion iOS devices. We don’t know how many people own these devices, but just say “about a billion people” in a round number. You can’t control the access of a billion people and say it’s not anyone’s business but what rules you make yourself and how you want to interpret and enforce them is your own.
Sooner or later, Apple is going to lose this battle. It needs to be more fair in the way it competes with third party services. Its commission rates need to be reconsidered to ensure that they are fair to all concerned. And it will bring a method of establishing and enforcing rules that have been applied both to justice and to all equally.
The agency, however, has a choice: it can wait for the law to intervene and be seen as a bad guy who is forced to do the right thing, or can take voluntary action and be seen as a good boy. I request to follow this second while still having time.
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