This week Apple did something that Apple usually doesn't do, they went back on a hard rule they set a few months ago. In February, Apple said that they'd be taking 30% of all your subscription earnings as a developer and you had to offer your service through the iTunes App Store. Apple, after probably hearing thousands of people yell at them, took an unannounced do-over and decided to alter the rule to allow magazine, newspaper, video and music publishers to not have to specifically sell via iTunes.
The rule was not yet in effect but Apple was already being lashed at by any and every developer that didn't have a huge margin to begin with. Some companies even said they would remove their apps completely from Apple products if the rule were to go through. Without services like Pandora, would you really buy an iPad?
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The new altered rule says that developers can sell their subscriptions to their services on their own site and can set whatever price they'd like. They can still host their content on the iPhone and iPad as apps. Also, they don't have to even give the choice for users to purchase through the App Store. If they do, however, Apple will get their 30% commission on the purchase. One little side note here is that you still aren't allowed to go around the iTunes store by putting your own purchase button on your app, but we kind of expected that.
Interestingly enough, The Financial Times tried to circumvent Apple's rule this week by making a mobile app that could be reached through your phone's Web browser, which you then could make your purchase.
Rhapsody, a music-streaming company, was one of the major players that were going to leave the platform if the rule happened to stay as it was originally written. Their PR people are now saying this is very good news, but are still reviewing the changes made to the law.
This is definitely a strange move for Apple, a company that usually doesn't back down. I suppose when you are threatened with losing every developer that brought you to your success train, you may be inclined to rethink your decision.