The dispute between Basecamp (creator of the email client HEY) and the Apple does not end – which, good or bad, gives a different dynamic to WWDC20 which will start soon, since we are talking about an obstacle involving a company, but that is reflected in many developers.
In case you have no idea what we are talking about, I suggest reading these two articles that we previously published:
Inside the subject? Great. So you saw that Apple played the last card in this story. But Basecamp didn’t want to let it go and published an open letter on its website, written by the company’s CEO, Jason Fried, responding again to the Apple.
In it, despite saying that money is important and that the discussion whether the 30% that Apple charges for In-App Purchases are fair or not ends up gaining more prominence in the news, Fried said that it is not just about money, but «about the lack of choice and how Apple forcibly inserts itself between its company and its customer».
Should the largest company in the world decide how millions of other companies can interact with their own customers?
In the letter, Fried explains how Apple determines the limits that companies can help their customers by adopting the App Store’s internal payment system, and how it has a negative impact on the customer experience and the relationship of companies with them. That’s because the entire financial relationship (the deal itself) is done with Apple, which holds the 30% and passes the rest on to the company. So, in fact, absolutely everything in this relationship is in the hands of Apple, even though the company in question struggled to win over that customer.
At Basecamp, for example, we help people for a variety of reasons. We apply credit to accounts for all kinds of reasons. We make exceptions for all kinds of reasons. We give discounts on our software for teachers. We provide free versions for first responders. We extend tests to those who need more time. We occasionally extend payment terms to those who are experiencing difficulties in the month. We make exceptions because people are exceptional. We are very proud to help people. And we are very good at that.
If we had to go through this whole relationship with our customers through the Apple system, we couldn’t do any of that. […]
Not to mention, of course, in all the bureaucratic part of working with two or more payment systems – Basecamp works with a single, centralized one.
Another big problem pointed out by Fried has to do with users who migrate from platform:
Say someone signs up for HEY on an iPhone, pay with the system In-App Purchase from Apple, and decide to switch to an Android phone. Billing is totally messed up now. They cannot update their credit cards through the HEY app on Android, because their billing information is stored with Apple. And we cannot help them. Who wins? Apple wins. This creates a huge block when all of your service subscriptions are linked to a single platform. If you change your phone, do you also need to change your email address now?
That is why we have a centralized, universal and non-platform specific charging system. We make a multiplatform product. Web, macOS, Windows, Linux, Android and iOS. Pay us anywhere, we can help you anywhere. Except that Apple doesn’t allow it – you can’t pay us our way if you’re using the iOS app. You have to pay in Apple’s way and ruin everything for everyone except, you guessed it, for Apple.
Fried made a point of making it clear that he does not want an end to In-App Purchases (the way they work). In fact, this type of system can and should be useful for many developers – even though it considers 30% a very large slice. For the executive, the problem is the lack of option.
Apple, just give your developers the choice! Let us charge our own customers through our own systems, so that we can help them with extensions, refunds, discounts or anything else in our own way. It is our business, not yours. And Phil Schiller’s suggestion that we should raise prices for iOS customers to offset Apple’s additional margin, is the icing on the antitrust cake.
Solid arguments, isn’t it?
Speaking of antitrust, we recently commented that the European Commission opened an investigation precisely to understand whether there is a monopoly in the business involving the App Store. The investigation is based on complaints made by Spotify and Kobo (a Canadian ebook distributor).
THE Engadget decided to talk to some developers to understand what they thought of the investigation and the fight involving Apple and Basecamp. While some (The Match Group, Deezer, Epic Games, etc.) believe it is a monopoly and that changes need to be made, others (Omni Group, Shiny Frog, Readdle, etc.) understand that, even though everything can always improve, the App Store is a good place to distribute your applications and it is fair for Apple to keep a part of the revenue so that everything keeps working (after all, it is not at all simple to keep such a structure running).
For those interested in this arm wrestling, it is worth checking the opinions of developers / companies more thoroughly.