Internal Emails Reveal Why Apple Decided on Blocking Purchase of Kindle Books on iPhone

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The internal emails and documents submitted by Apple for its House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust hearing have opened a can of worms. The documents had earlier revealed that Apple wanted to charge a 40 percent commission from app developers at one point and how Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos directly negotiated to get the Prime Video on the Apple TV.

One such email back from November 2010 between Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller, and Eddy Cue shows the decision taken by Jobs then that still limits Kindle from selling Kindle books through the Kindle app on the App Store. In the email, Jobs makes it clear that Amazon must accept the App Store payment mechanism and fees or otherwise “bow out.” He also notes that its time Apple began applying these rules uniformly “except for existing subscriptions (but applying it for new ones).”

The catalyst for this discussion between the Apple executives as the Kindle ads that Amazon was running on TV at that time. One of the ads showed a woman purchasing a Kindle book on her iPhone and then switching to an Android device where she continued reading it. This ticked off Schiller who said it was “not fun to watch.”

I just watched a new Amazon Kindle app ad on TV. It starts with a woman using an iPhone and buying and reading books with the Kindle app. The woman then switches to an Android phone and still can read all her books. While the primary message is that there are Kindle apps on lots of mobile devices, the secondary message that can’t be missed is that it is easy to switch from iPhone to Android. Not fun to watch.

In another email thread from around the same time, the executives discuss the need for new subscription policies for the App Store. Jobs confirms in the email thread clearly that iBooks will be the only bookstore on iOS devices, and that while users can read books purchased from elsewhere, publishers cannot do so on an iPhone without paying Apple its commission.

“I think this is all pretty simple — iBooks is going to be the only bookstore on iOS devices. We need to hold our heads high. One can read books bought elsewhere, just not buy/rent/subscribe from iOS without paying us, which we acknowledge is prohibitive for many things” – Jobs said in one of the emails.

The above App Store policies were formally announced by Apple in February 2011. The policies set then still have an effect as one still cannot buy Kindle books from the Kindle app on iOS devices as Amazon is not keen on paying Apple the 30 percent commission.

As the hearing proceeds further, we are bound to get our hands on more internal documents that should provide even more insight into various decisions related to the App Store taken by Apple over the years.

[Via The Verge]