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Apple: Want apps? Then subscribe

Gregg Keizer | June 21, 2016
Company risks inflicting 'subscription fatigue' on customers

Dawson argued that implementing upgrade pricing would be difficult, what with Apple's mandate for just one version of an app in the store. But while subscriptions are not a perfect substitute, they're better than nothing. In short, subscriptions should motivate developers to keep improving their apps, just as customers should be motivated to subscribe to receive those improvements.

The most likely beneficiary of the subscription expansion will be personal productivity apps and utilities, said Dawson, who cited Vesper, a note-taking app whose principals include Gruber, and Overcast, a podcasting app from Marco Arment. Others, including Flexibits' popular calendar app Fantastical 2, and Mint, Intuit's personal finance app, would seem good candidates as well under Dawson's criteria.

"These small utility apps are worth something, but the model to update them has been challenging," said Dawson, who envisioned subscriptions helping one-to-three-person development shops with just one app, or a small stable of apps, stay in business and keep their apps alive. "These are the kinds of apps that appeal to the Apple faithful," he continued.

But adding more subscriptions risks consumer fatigue. The model is already popular with software and services -- Microsoft's push to get consumers to adopt Office 365 rather than pay once for an Office license is a good example of the first, Apple Music of the second -- and Apple's move will only expand the potential list of monthly or annual payments.

"There are risks for Apple as it taps into that," said Dawson. "These would be yet another thing you're paying Apple for on a regular basis. People may get tired of that as [total] amounts go up and up and up. Consumers can't afford to keep adding 'one more thing.'"

Later today, Apple will kick off its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) with a two-hour keynote to tout the next versions of iOS and OS X. While the subscription expansion announced last week was definitely developer-centric, Dawson, like others, believes Apple jumped the WWDC gun because the explanation of the App Store changes would have taken up too much time today.

"This has lots of detail and complexity, and there are still questions [after Apple's explanations]," said Dawson. "Trying to cram that in a keynote, it would have been too much to talk about. It could have taken 20 minutes."

The WWDC keynote will be webcast today starting at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET).

More information about the App Store subscription expansion can be found on Apple's website and in this FAQ for developers. Apple will also live-stream a WWDC session dedicated to the changes on Tuesday at 4 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET).

This story, "Apple: Want apps? Then subscribe" was originally published by Computerworld.

Source: CIO US


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