Monthly Archives: September 2011

In-app purchases: Clarity is required for the Windows Phone platform.

About a week ago I was gob-smacked when the reality of the new in-app content purchasing policy from Apple impacted me personally. Occasionally I like to use my iPad as a way of reading books rather than my Kindle reader, especially if I am surfing and reading at the same time. On the day I realised what was going on I launched the Kindle application and went to search for a book – but the shop button had disappeared. I thought that I had gone crazy.

Eventually I did some searching and found about the policy change and that Amazon had complied not by giving Apple a 30% cut of content purchases, but by pulling the feature from their native Kindle application and then launching the Kindle Cloud Reader.

Apple’s move here may have just shot themselves in the foot. I can’t see many of my clients racing how and build native iOS applications when Apple has shown such a disregard for the viability of the application ecosystem. The problem is this policy will also negatively impact any platform which has a centralised application discovery service (AppStore for Apple, Marketplace for Microsoft, Android is somewhat decentralised).

I believe that Microsoft in particular needs to come out into the open with what they are planning around marketplace. At the moment there is no specific in-app purchasing API, so developers can roll their own and Microsoft doesn’t take a cut (good).

One would assume that Microsoft will tackle this at some point in the future. Regardless I believe that Microsoft needs to be clear about what their policy will be. Specifically, if Microsoft does introduce in-app purchases, will they stop applications using other mechanisms for purchasing content (and other goods/services) in preference to their API, and will they exclude applications from the marketplace until they do so they can make a commission.

To be clear – this isn’t Microsoft’s fault. Apple’s business practices have introduced uncertainty into the mobile developer community. So what does nirvana look like to me if Microsoft does come clear on what their policy is?

  1. Have a policy – and stick to it.
  2. It would be good if you did have an API, and a native experience.
  3. Be honest, you are going to charge a commission, but don’t make it 30%, be competitive with say, PayPal.
  4. Allow developers to choose whether they use your native API and experience, or roll their own to avoid the commission (although they’ll probably pay someone else anyway – so compete!)
  5. If you want to get really slick, but a backend platform that the likes of PayPal, “payclick” and other payment providers can plug  – so the consumer gets a choice (sure, may yours the default).

Come on Microsoft. Windows Phone is an awesome platform, this is your chance to show some leadership around the business side of the platform.