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

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McQuivey's concern is whether this might be a first step by Apple to lock out all purchases that don't go through its App Store. "It may make sense from a shareholder's perspective, but whether it would be good for the long-term growth of the industry is another question," he said. "People are just now learning to love apps and online purchasing on smartphones and tablets, and this will create friction for that."

On his blog, McQuivey said the change would be "fundamentally at odds with the pro-consumer revolution Apple started" and contrary to his belief that companies can both partner and compete with rivals.

But if Apple eventually goes that route -- or simply makes it more difficult for the likes of Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Sony to compete with Apple on iPhone and iPad e-reader applications -- McQuivey thinks that Apple would end up winning, at least in the short term.

"They could get away with this," he said. "People aren't going to blame Apple right away, they're going to blame Amazon that they can't buy books on the iPad."

Amazon did not reply to a request for comment on the Sony rejection, and the in-app functionally Apple's now demanding.

McQuivey also highlighted the possible fallout to Apple from the Sony rejection, and Apple's demand that out-of-app purchases be backed by in-app transactions.

First, it would give consumers another reason to look at Google and its Android operating system, especially when the latter reaches tablets with the launch this year of Android 3.0, aka Honeycomb. "It would add to the open vs. closed debate between Apple and Google," said McQuivey.

Although that message might not sink in until next year, McQuivey argued that consumers will soon start to equate Apple's so-called "walled garden" strategy with the AOL of 15 years ago. The latter's closed ecosystem eventually failed to stem the shift to the open Internet.

And government regulators will be keeping an eye on the situation, McQuivey promised.

"The FTC [Federal Trade Commission] is going to get quite a few phone calls on this one," McQuivey argued on his blog. "Any company that has either a natural or contrived monopoly eventually comes under scrutiny for how it inhibits competition and innovation."

Apple has faced U.S. government scrutiny before, both in 2009 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started an inquiry into Apple's rejection of Google's Voice app for the iPhone, and last year, when it questioned Apple's plans to ban all apps created with cross-platform development tools.

Last September, Apple conceded on the latter.

How this will play out is unclear, even to a close Apple watcher like McQuivey, who focuses on e-readers for Forrester. One thing's certain, however: Sony isn't alone.

"Sony's not the only one in this situation," said McQuivey. "I know of several others that are in a similar situation. But maybe this is just a way for Apple to float a trial balloon."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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