Feb. 1, 2011 at 12:25 PM ET
Apple may be tightening the noose on its App Store restrictions, particularly for e-reader programs, such as Sony's which was recently rejected by Apple. The news has implications primarily for programs like Amazon's Kindle e-reading app, which is available on many platforms, including Apple's for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
The New York Times reports Tuesday that Apple has told Sony and other app developers "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.
"Apple rejected Sony’s (e-reader) iPhone application, which would have let people buy and read e-books bought from the Sony Reader Store.
Apple told Sony that from now on, all in-app purchases would have to go through Apple, said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division."
Apple, of course, has its own e-book program called iBooks that was introduced with the iPad last year. As popular as it may be, the Kindle reading app — which can be used on a variety of computers (Mac and PC), mobile phones and tablets — is more widely available and used.
The newspaper noted that both Apple and Amazon declined to comment on the situation.
On its e-reader site, Sony says this about its Reader for iPhone app: "We created an app that we’re very excited about, which includes all the features you’ve come to expect from a mobile reading application — including access to your existing collection, synching with your Reader Daily Edition and purchasing new content as is possible on other mobile platforms.
"Unfortunately, with little notice, Apple changed the way it enforces its rules and this will prevent the current version of the Reader for iPhone from being available in the app store. We opened a dialog with Apple to see if we can come up with an equitable resolution but reached an impasse at this time. We’re exploring other avenues to bring the Reader experience to Apple mobile devices. We know that many of you are eagerly awaiting the application and we appreciate your continued patience."
"If Apple is indeed revoking the ability to read digital books you’ve bought elsewhere on an iPhone, it’s upsetting, anti-competitive, and self-defeating," wrote Harry McCracken on his Technologizer blog.
McCracken, an iPhone user, says he uses the Kindle app "so much that if it were crippled or unavailable on the iPhone, I’d switch to a different phone."
"It might also have something to do with the reported imminent arrival of App Store features that permit periodical subscriptions —maybe they also involve single-copy purchases," he wrote. "But I don’t think we know enough yet to understand what’s going on here."
The change, said the Times, "may signal a shift for Apple. The company has made more money selling hardware than music, e-books or apps. If people could have access to more content from more sources on their iPhones and iPads, the thinking went, then they would buy more devices.
"The move is also surprising, as Apple has indicated recently that it would be more collaborative, not less, with magazine publishers and other content producers that want more control over how to distribute content on the iPad."
On Wednesday, News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch is expected to unveil "The Daily," a digital newspaper created just for the iPad. The digital-only publication, available only in the United States at launch, will cost 99 cents a week.
Update: Apple says it has not changed the rules, and AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski notes that with Sony, “Apple is simply enforcing a rule that’s been in them all along: apps that allow their users to purchase content, functionality, or services must use Apple’s In App Purchase API.”
"We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines," an Apple spokeswoman told AllThingsD. "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."
In other words, writes Packowski, "You don’t have to buy books, or music, or other media that you consume on iOS apps from Apple. But developers must offer you the option of buying that stuff through Apple and its iTunes-backed system."