They say you shouldn't watch how the sausage is made. Seems like you shouldn't watch how it's sold, either.
As John Koetsier noted in a recent Forbes article, Apple has been running ads for a number of apps in competition with the ads run by the companies who make the apps. The difference, of course, is that the Apple ads direct traffic to the App Store where Apple takes 30 per cent.
The use of quietly here is a little ridiculous: what is Apple supposed to do, take out an ad saying it's taking out ads? It's also highly unlikely that the app vendors mentioned—Tinder, Bumble, HBO and others—have been unaware of this activity until just recently. These aren't indie developers, these are companies with marketing departments. They're well aware of the ad landscape for their products.
That doesn't mean that what Apple is doing isn't still kind of gross. Or net as the case may be.
This would be all well and good if Apple were just adding to the advertising being done for the apps, but the online ad market being what it is and largely controlled by a company that shall remain nameless (feel free to Google its name if you're curious), the ads compete with vendor ads for both space and cost as Apple's bids drive up the prices for ads.
According to Apple, all is well.
…the company says that it regularly engages in conversation with developers about the ads it places and many developers express their appreciation for this support.
Many are saying we're the best.
The Macalope wonders if the conversation is a calling them up and discussing it kind of conversation or a sending them an email saying We've updated the App Store terms and conditions, pray we do not update them further kind of conversation.
Apple indicated that this is no different from retailers running ads for the products they sell, and is a very standard business model.
Is it just like a grocery store advertising Hellmann's mayonnaise? (Or Best Food's mayonnaise depending on whether you're on the correct coast or the incorrect one, no the Macalope will not say which one he thinks is which.) Not really, no. Generally speaking, people don't buy mayonnaise directly from Unilever. Most people don't even know both Hellmann's and Best Foods are owned by Unilever. Even fewer know that the websites for Hellmann's and Best Foods are weird mirror universe-type experiences that remind the Macalope that Fringe was a pretty darn good TV show.
Even if Unilever would sell you some mayo direct, it's not like it's going to sell you one jar of it. Not even Bev from Lansing who brings that same damn potato salad to every barbecue can warrant buying in the bulk quantities Unilever insists upon. But you can and people do buy apps and app subscriptions from vendors' websites all the time. In fact, people were doing it long before the App Store, not to hear Apple talk about it.
Apple likes to play it fast and loose when comparing digital goods to physical goods. This is just like with physical goods! Oh, you mean the goods that you don't take any cut on the sale of from iOS apps? Oh, not that much like physical goods. Then you mean like the physical goods that vendors can put all kinds of information on to direct buyers to their website to find more informat- WE SAID NOT THAT MUCH LIKE PHYSICAL GOODS.
This isn't something new. Apple says it's been doing this for five years. It's possible that this is a story now because these app makers want to add fuel to the fire for legislative or legal action against Apple's App Store rules. And, if it is, well… good.
While the Macalope is honestly unsure of where the right place to draw the line on sideloading is, he's very sure of where to draw the line on letting developers tell people in the app that they can subscribe on their website. Developers should 100 per cent be allowed to let people click a button to go and subscribe on their website. The convenience of paying within the App Store ecosystem should be enough to keep most purchases within the App Store and it incentivises Apple to make it super convenient. That's supposed to be the value that Apple is adding.
The richest company in the history of companies is often its most annoying when it is trying to further maximise its richness at the cost of others without providing any real value.