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5 Ways Apple’s In-App Purchase Rule Could Come Back to Bite

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Cries of antitrustlock in and lock out reverberated through the technology world this week after news of Apple rejecting Sony’s new e-reader application surfaced. While Apple clarified it wouldn’t outright forbid browser-based purchasing — which is the way Amazon and others avoid paying the Apple tax for in-store app purchases — the company did state that apps designed for content purchases will also need to allow for in-app purchasing.

This should put to rest any doubt that Apple would eventually collect on the vig for all commerce in its app store. While Apple is technically allowing for browser-purchase, requiring inclusion of in-app purchases as well will force most content purchases through the App Store — a huge blow to those who’ve implemented browser-centric purchase strategies in iOS as part of a broader cross-platform content strategy.

The move will garner Apple more revenue in the near term, but here are five reasons why the folks in Cupertino could eventually regret this move:

More Momentum for Android

While the iPad single-handedly legitimized the tablet category, the momentum behind Android tablets, and Android in general, is impressive. Kevin has already stated the reasons he’s selling his iPad and defaulting to the Samsung Tab, and with the release of Honeycomb putting even more competitive pressure on the iPad, Apple picked a strange time to suddenly enforce a rule that could alienate both developers and consumers.

Speaking of consumers …

Enforcement of In-App Purchase Will Give Rise to Consumer Concerns About Lock In

While those in the tech press and open-web movement cry foul at the closed nature of iOS and the app store model, the general public could care less. Most iOS citizens have been blissfully downloading fart apps, bird and zombie games and, more recently, e-books, without giving a second thought to app store lock in. However, with Apple’s recent moves, that could change; those used to buying e-books on the Kindle app could resent now having to buy them through iTunes, as well as the increased prices for these e-books.

Amazon and Google: Frenemies Forever?

While Google has already launched an e-book store to compete head to head with Amazon, Apple’s move could push those two into one another’s arms, creating frenemies in the joined battle against the iOS walled garden. Sure, independently Google and Amazon will criticize the closed nature of App Store purchases, but if the two worked together to allow access to e-books purchased through one another’s bookstores, it would put real meaning behind their words and would mute some of the criticism around the closed nature of the Kindle.

A Faster Move to HTML5 Apps (and Away from the App Store)

Much of the reason for the initial App Store success is that it provided a way for consumers to easily and securely gain access to content-centric applications that would run on a great consumption device in the iPhone. But as the world moves towards HTML5 and new devices proliferate, consumers will increasingly free themselves of local apps. Apple’s move will only push Amazon, Google and others to redouble their efforts to push to HTML5.

Amazon to Launch iTunes Competitor?

A couple weeks ago I asked who could make the iTunes for the cloud, particularly given how slowly Apple — and its large installed base — is moving in that direction. This week’s news only confirms my belief that Amazon will no doubt throw its hat in the ring, particularly as it looks to round out its content offerings in other areas such as video entertainment and music.

What would that look like? Imagine part content locker, part marketplace and part sync engine for all a consumer’s content, tied to a consumer’s Amazon account and allowing for access to content across screens, online and off, both on Amazon devices and third-party devices. In other words, it’s the consumer media-cloud holy grail, something Apple should have owned with its early lead with iTunes and the App store, but seems to moving further away from with a more closed iOS.

Yep, imagine it; because with this week’s news, I’m sure that Jeff Bezos already is.

Question of the week

How could Apple’s in-app purchase rule eventually prove trouble in the long term?