Apple rejects Sony e-reader app; Is Kindle next?

Says book sellers like Amazon must add in-app purchasing to their iPhone, iPad e-readers

Apple's decision to reject Sony's e-reader application today sparked speculation that Apple would soon yank Amazon's popular Kindle software from the App Store.

One analyst said it would be a mistake for Apple to do so because it would give Android smartphones and tablets a better chance of stealing market share. "If Apple did this, it would mark a major change," James McQuivey, a media analyst with Forrester Research, said in an interview Tuesday.

"It would signal a switch from focusing on the platform rather than devices, which is what Apple's done in the past," McQuivey continued. "Any of its content selling has been done with the aim of selling devices, not the content itself, but you can sell devices to someone only one or twice a year. If Apple's really after the content service [market], it's in a position to make money."

In an earlier blog post, McQuivey said a change "is a mistake" by Apple.

Apple has denied that it will pull Amazon's Kindle app, but acknowledged it is now requiring developers to add in-app purchasing to their software.

The blogstorm over Apple's intentions started after the New York Times published a story quoting a Sony executive as saying Apple had rejected the company's e-reader app and told Sony that all in-application purchases had to go through the App Store.

Apple currently takes a 30% cut of all app and in-app revenue, something that Sony's software -- and Amazon's Kindle, too -- sidestep by opening a separate browser window for actual purchases. Apple may modify that percentage when it rolls out a new payment technology Wednesday at the launch of News Corp.'s The Daily all-digital newspaper.

Later Tuesday, Sony issued a statement about Apple's rejection of its e-reader application.

"With little notice, Apple changed the way it enforces its rules and this will prevent the current version of the Reader for iPhone from being available in the App Store," Sony's statement read. "We opened a dialog with Apple to see if we can come up with an equitable resolution, but reached an impasse at this time. We're exploring other avenues to bring the Reader experience to Apple mobile devices."

Sony did not respond to questions about the specific rule or rules that Apple is now enforcing that resulted in the Sony Reader app rejection.

One option by Sony would be to rely on a Web-based e-reader, thus circumventing the App Store entirely.

Apple, however, clarified its position today.

"We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines," said Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller. "We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase."

Apple's current iOS App Store guidelines, however, do not spell out that requirement in so many words. The most pertinent clause in those guidelines simply says, "Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected."

The new interpretation forwarded by Apple hints that other apps, including Amazon's Kindle, will be required to add in-app purchasing functionality, giving customers a way to buy books within the app and Apple its 30% cut.

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