Will Apple’s IOS Death-Grip Backfire?


A surplus of rumors have been circulating recently that Apple is in talks with several major communications companies to work out an arrangement for distributing rich content, iPad-optimized versions of publications, on a subscription model basis, through an app native to the iOS platform. The service would function similarly to iBooks, Apple’s book reader app that allows you to purchase and read e-books on the iOS platform. In addition to these rumors, there have been multiple reports-from The Wallstreet Journal, PC World, and B-Net (a subsidiary of CBS news)-that the future of such an offering is complicated by conflicts between the publishers and Apple over the terms of such an arrangement. One particularly contentious matter is the level of control Apple wants to retain over content distributed through the app, subscriptions to editorials available through the app, and the valuable subscriber data that could help publishers generate revenue through advertisements.

According to a report from the San Jose Mercury News, Apple’s proposed arrangement would allow them to pocket 30 percent of all earnings from subscriptions, and a significant 40 percent cut of all advertising revenue. Now, admittedly, the publishing industry has been floundering for some time now, but that doesn’t mean they’ll settle for a raw deal, like the one Apple seems to be extending them. Furthermore, as the case of Sports Illustrated proved, the framework for developing iOS editorials is in need of some critical improvements before publishers will be able to justify the cost of production and distribution through the App store.

But, regarding the current negotiations in the greater context of mobile development, you have to wonder at what point Apple’s control freak policies will take a toll on the progress of their walled iOS garden. Sure, we understand that they’re obsessed with quality control and preserving a consistent user experience throughout the family of iOS devices, but could their regulation neurosis and iOS micro-management, actually hamper innovation and development on the platform?

Indeed, one need look no farther than to Apple’s iAd platform for insight into how their fastidious overhead management has hindered the progress of innovative advancements. When iAds were first announced, Apple announced that they were working with several major brands-including Best Buy, Target, and GEICO (and several others)-to develop rich media in-app banner ads. But as Noah Elkins of eMarketer Daily recently pointed out, evidence of these collaborations remains to be seen-how many banner ads like those Apple announced have we actually encountered? Not too many. Meanwhile, speculations are circulating that the iAd rollouts have been stalled by the death-grip Apple seems to have on the terms and regulations of any advertisements on their platform.

While iAds might have slipped into limbo, at this point in time anyway, could the iNewspaper app for publications suffer the same fate if Apple doesn’t loosen the reins and cede some control to publishers? Maybe this feud will, instead, serve as a reality check for Apple-or at least prompt them to reconsider what they’re sacrificing by running such a tight ship. Of course, only time will tell and frankly, Apple is not known for making concessions. But, for the sake of innovation on the iOS platform, we certainly hope Apple will come down from their pedestal and allow their platform to advance mobile technology, not hamper its progress.


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