Fast on the heels of the Financial Times (FT), online retailer Amazon has released a Web application that allows users of its Kindle device and platform to read their books on desktop browsers and Apple’s iPad tablet device.
This is the latest salvo in an on-going battle between content publishers such as FT and Amazon, and the wildly successful hardware manufacturer.
The trouble began in February when Apple announced its revenue-sharing model for subscription content. Chief executive Steve Jobs said: “Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app,
Apple earns a 30% share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100% and Apple earns nothing.”
What followed was much wringing of palms among the numerous publishers eager to sell their content to the legions of iOS device users. Users of Apple devices have shown a tremendous proclivity to pay for software and content. At last count, Apple has over 225 million accounts with credit card numbers registered with iTunes.
Last month, it began enforcing the revenue-share system. Some prince?restrictions?were dropped. But the 30% cut remained.
For publishers there was a third choice of action, besides Apple’s way and the highway. That is to build feature-rich Web applications that live and function entirely within the Web browser. Both the FT app and the Amazon Kindle app—called Cloud Reader—are applications built using HTML5 language and standards.
This makes these apps much more robust and versatile than traditional websites. The Cloud Reader is so well built that on the iPad it functions almost as well as a native app. Readers can browse their library, read books and even buy and download them for offline reading.
Besides by-passing all Apple restrictions, the Web-app model offers several other benefits. Registrations and subscriptions are handled directly between the publisher and the consumer. Also apps can be made to work uniformly across several devices and browsers. Users can also look forward to an even more friction-free experience. For instance, they don’t need to worry about upgrades or compatibility.
As HTML5 Web-app publishing and consumption grows, publishers can find this a faster and cheaper way of scaling up distribution across devices and platforms without having to develop a new app for each one.
While some publishers have played along with Apple’s demands, many are no doubt keenly watching how FT and Cloud Reader perform. If more Web-apps of quality are forthcoming, then the “Apple Tax” may have inadvertently opened a new channel of revenues for beleaguered media brands.
Where will this “fight” go? Tell us at email@example.com