Steve Jobs Email Suggests In-App Subscriptions Don't Apply to 'Software As a Service'?

014201 iap

Apple's announcement last week introducing App Store Subscriptions has generated a lot of controversy across the web. At issue is Apple's policy requiring publishers to also offer all subscriptions through Apple's In-App purchase system which gives Apple a 30% cut. Meanwhile, publishers are still allowed to sell subscriptions outside of the App Store (and keep 100%) but they can't undercut the App Store price. From the original announcement:

"Our philosophy is simple - when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app.

While the wording of the original announcement was aimed specifically at content publishers, there has been growing concern that the terms don't allow for "software as a service" (SaaS) apps as well. These are apps such as DropBox and SalesForce that provide specific services to users for recurring subscription fee.

014300 item ss instapaper 500
Readability for iPad

The issue was brought to the headlines yesterday morning when Readability announced that their app had been rejected due to the new subscription terms. Readability offers a subscription service priced at $5 per month which offers the users to view clutter- and ad-free versions of online content for easy reading. They believe they were rejected due to Apple targeting software service apps and not just ones serving up content.

DaringFireball's John Gruber, however, interprets this rejection differently, and believes that Readability is simply a publisher model, and thus subject to Apple's new terms:

Maybe I'm missing something, but these guys claiming to be surprised and disappointed by Apple's insistence on a 30 percent cut of subscriptions when their own business model is to take a 30 percent cut of subscriptions strikes me as rich. And how can they claim that Readability isn't "serving up content"? That's exactly what Readability does.

But Readability is not alone in their interpretation. TinyGrab, a screenshot sharing service, announced today that they won't be pursuing their iOS app due to the restrictions surrounding the new subscription system. TinyGrab offers premium subscriptions which gives paying customers additional storage and capabilities.

We really want to be part of the app revolution on OS X and iOS but it looks as though that may no longer be able to happen, until Apple fix these issues and welcome us in again.

Finally, Marco Arment, the developer of Instapaper, also seems to interpret Apple's new policies as affecting software as a service. He asks if apps that support Evernote, DropBox, Salesforce, LinkedIn, and 37signals will have to be removed for not offering subscriptions as in app purchases.

014518 icons
SalesForce, Evernote, Dropbox icons

One MacRumors reader also had these questions and emailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs with these same concerns. He wrote:

Hello Steve,

As a full time iOS developer, I am concerned (and confused) withe the new App Store guideline regarding "Apps offering subscriptions" (section 11.12).

Most of the iOS apps I have developed, as a contractor for other businesses, have been free apps that had login screens to allow the user access to some amount of private data. and/or service. These businesses have all been well established companies that sell some kind of service to their customers (Software As a Service companies) and the iOS app was merely another "portal" for their users to access their data/services (in many times, in a limited i.e. "mobile" fashion).... for example; SalesForce. I am concerned that most of these businesses will choose to not develop an iOS app for their customers if the IAP & subscription policy was in place.

Would these type's of free apps be still be allowed in the App Store or will they now be expected to use IAP?

To this, Steve Jobs replied in his typically short and, unfortunately, somewhat vague response:


We created subscriptions for publishing apps, not SaaS apps.

Sent from my iPhone

On the surface, our interpretation of this response is that the new in-app subscription rules simply don't apply to Software-as-a-Service. And, if you review the new guidelines and press materials that Apple has released, all the context is specifically related to publishers of content.

Based on that interpretation, apps such as DropBox and even TinyGrab may not be subject to the new rules. Readability's rejection, however, shows there are some borderline cases where the line between publisher and service provider is a bit blurry. Hopefully, Apple will provide more clarity on this issue.

Related Forum: iPhone

Popular Stories

iPhone trade in

Apple Adjusts Trade-In Values for iPhones, Macs, and More

Wednesday January 25, 2023 9:40 am PST by
After announcing new Mac and HomePod models last week, Apple adjusted its trade-in values for select devices in the United States. iPhone trade-in values decreased by up to $80, and most Android smartphones also went down. Mac trade-in values remained unchanged or increased by up to $40 depending on the model, while some Apple Watch models increased in value and others decreased. Trade-in...
iphone 15 pro wifi 6e

Internal Apple Document From Leaker 'Unknownz21' Confirms Wi-Fi 6E Will Be Limited to iPhone 15 Pro Models

Friday January 27, 2023 10:01 am PST by
Multiple rumors have suggested that the next-generation iPhone 15 models will adopt the Wi-Fi 6E standard that Apple has already introduced in the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro, and now a leaked document appears to confirm Apple's plans. Sourced from researcher and Apple leaker Unknownz21 (@URedditor), the document features diagrams of the iPhone 15's antenna architecture. D8x refers to the...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Expected to Feature Wi-Fi 6E Like Latest Macs and iPad Pro

Wednesday January 25, 2023 5:39 pm PST by
The iPhone 15 will support Wi-Fi 6E, according to a research note shared this week by Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Tom O'Malley. The analysts did not specify whether the feature will be available on all models or limited to the Pro models. Apple has added Wi-Fi 6E support to a handful of devices so far, including the latest 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With the New M2 Max MacBook Pro

Thursday January 26, 2023 12:14 pm PST by
New 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with the latest M2 Pro and M2 Max chips are available in Apple retail stores and are already in the hands of customers, and we picked up one of the new M2 Max machines to answer all of the questions MacRumors readers considering a purchase might have. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Yesterday, we asked MacRumors fans on...
Mac Pro 2019 Apple

Mac Pro Enthusiasts Raise Concerns Over Upgrade Limitations of Apple Silicon

Thursday January 26, 2023 6:30 am PST by
The new Mac Pro coming later this year is expected to feature the same spacious modular design as the 2019 model, but with fresh concerns over its lack of upgradeability surfacing, some users are beginning to wonder what the transition away from Intel architecture actually means for Apple's most powerful Mac. The current Intel Mac Pro that Apple sells is popular with creative professionals...
iOS 16

iOS 16.3 for iPhone Launching Next Week With These 4 New Features

Friday January 20, 2023 11:43 am PST by
In a recent press release, Apple confirmed that iOS 16.3 will be released to the public next week. The software update will be available for the iPhone 8 and newer and includes a handful of new features, changes, and bug fixes. Below, we've recapped bigger features in iOS 16.3, including support for physical security keys as a two-factor authentication option for Apple ID accounts, worldwide ...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Rumored to Have These 8 Features

Friday January 27, 2023 2:11 pm PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are expected to be announced in September as usual. Already, rumors suggest the devices will have at least eight exclusive features not available on the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. An overview of the eight features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17...