Apple in another climbdown as Japanese regulator puts its foot down over reader apps


Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) has suffered another setback in its attempt to exert a level of control over its platform that would shame a North Korean leader.

The US tech giant has reached a settlement with regulators in Japan that will allow developers of “reader” apps to link to the developers’ websites where they can manage their own accounts.

The agreement covers any app that accesses media that has been purchased or is available on a subscription basis, such as Dropbox, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Deezer.

Technology website The Register explained the significance of the change.

“To understand this change, consider the Kindle app for iOS [Apple’s operating system], which lets users read e-books they have bought from Kindle for iOS is useless unless users already have an Amazon account, and the app isn’t allowed to tell users – with a link or otherwise – where they need to go to sign up and get content,” the website explained.

As well as making it easier for users to Apple users to handle their user accounts it will make it easier for Apple users to make payments on these external sites, which means Apple will miss out on the opportunity to gouge its commission for the transaction.

Apple’s stance has been that its App Store’s guidelines require developers to sell digital services and subscriptions using Apple’s in-app payment system “to ensure a safe and seamless user experience”.

To be fair to Apple, its totalitarian approach is widely recognised as contributing to the Apple ecosystem’s famed ease of use.

Apple said it would apply the change globally to all reader apps in its massively lucrative Apps store.

“We have great respect for the Japan Fair Trade Commission and appreciate the work we’ve done together, which will help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up and manage their apps and service while protecting their privacy and maintaining their trust,” a spokesperson for Apple said.

The decision follows Apple’s settlement of a US anti-trust case last week brought by a group of developers who were irked by the cash-rich tech titan’s insistence (among other things) on insisting on a minimum 99 cent price for apps, from which Apple would take its 30% sales commission.

Despite these grudging concessions, Apple is still engaged in a potentially blockbusting dispute with Epic Games, the developer of the phenomenally popular Fortnite game.

Epic, which has long groused about the 30% cut taken by Apple and Google for selling its games, made changes in August of last year that enabled Fortnite players to bypass the Apple App Store payment system, thus prompting Apple to remove it from the App Store, which in turn triggered Epic’s lawsuit.

A verdict on the dispute is anticipated later this year.


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