Apple is turning developers against Vision Pro before it even arrives

Macworld

Let’s say your company requires you to deliver some files at the end of the quarter for record-keeping. You can quickly, easily, and efficiently send them via email but the old company policy requires you to copy them to a USB drive and physically deliver them to the employee who manages the archives. You hate the policy, but you must comply, so you find the oldest, slowest, smallest USB drives you can and copy the files to them, filling up a dozen slow old thumb drives and creating a headache for everyone.

This would be an example of “malicious compliance,” the concept of adhering to the letter of a law or policy, but doing so in such a way as to openly defy the spirit of it or make other’s lives more difficult because the law/policy exists.

The new iOS App Store changes in the EU, to comply with the Digital Markets Act, have been announced and are part of iOS 17.4 (in beta now, to be released by March). Apple’s description of them sounds like good news–lower commissions and the like–but many developers are calling the changes a master class in malicious compliance. In fact, Apple’s new terms are listed as one of the examples of malicious compliance in the Wikipedia entry.

The Gatekeeper fee

Central to the complaints of most developers is a new “Core Technology Fee” that is charged on each “first install annually” for developers with more than a million users. That’s any time the app is installed for the first time in a year—even if it’s free to download. So if you have three million downloads (including app updates or downloads from sources outside Apple’s App Store), you’ll pay a Core Technology Fee of €0.50 per user (54 cents) on two million users.

Apple made a fee calculator so that developers can see what they’ll pay under the current rules and the new rules, with options to adjust downloads, sales, whether the app is distributed in the App Store or not, and whether purchases are processed by Apple or not. Many developers were shocked to plug in some seemingly reasonable numbers and find out that their apps would give up half their revenue or more to Apple even if Apple doesn’t distribute the app or process the payments. Add third-party payment processing and app store fees to that and…

Well, let’s just say it seems clear that Apple is making it as un-appetizing as possible to use anything other than the App Store. Under the current terms, an app with 5 million users and €2 million in annual sales (in the EU) will pay about €46,000 a month. Under the new terms, that explodes up to over €197,000 a month, and even if you don’t use the App Store or Apple’s payment processing, you’d pay over €166,000 a month!

Leave it to Apple to comply with a government regulation concerned with “gatekeeping” by creating a fee that could reasonably be called a gatekeeping fee: A fee developers pay just for the privilege of accessing the device and one that, of course, Apple doesn’t technically have to pay for any of its apps, many of which compete with third-party apps.

Vision Pro needs strong developer support to succeed.

Apple

Vision Pro needs developer goodwill

The backdrop to all this is the launch of Apple’s first major new product category in over a decade, and maybe the most important frontier of development since the iPhone: Apple Vision Pro.

We’ve written recently about all the apps you won’t find on Apple’s $3,499 spatial computer. Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, almost anything from Google… the list is quite extensive. These aren’t just apps that won’t have native “spatial computing” versions, they’re apps that have specifically opted out of allowing their iPad apps to run in a window on Apple Vision Pro.

That’s a huge problem. With sub-million sales, this new platform can easily be ignored. Even with less than 10 million sales, most of the companies making the apps we all have come to rely on might not be bothered. Consider that native iPad apps are still not assured (e.g. Instagram) where Apple sells “only” 50-60 million units a year, and native Vision Pro apps are probably going to be harder to make.

And without lots of great apps—real, native, third-party apps—it’s going to be extremely hard for more than a few million people to justify spending thousands of dollars on a mixed-reality device. Even if the next headset only costs $1,000, it’s not going to be a big hit if the apps aren’t there.

The Vision Pro needs developer goodwill. It needs developers to take a chance on it, to build the apps that make the device desirable. This is not the time for hubris. It’s the time for Apple to bend over backward for developers, making its platforms (all of them–it’s an ecosystem!) as desirable as possible. While none of the new EU terms apply to Vision Pro, at least not yet, they’re still burning bridges with the very people who need to make Vision Pro apps. It seems like the worst possible move to tank developer goodwill with new terms that seem to be deliberately designed to anger Apple’s biggest critics and provoke regulators just as Apple Vision Pro is launching.

Virtual Reality

​Macworld Macworld

Let’s say your company requires you to deliver some files at the end of the quarter for record-keeping. You can quickly, easily, and efficiently send them via email but the old company policy requires you to copy them to a USB drive and physically deliver them to the employee who manages the archives. You hate the policy, but you must comply, so you find the oldest, slowest, smallest USB drives you can and copy the files to them, filling up a dozen slow old thumb drives and creating a headache for everyone.

This would be an example of “malicious compliance,” the concept of adhering to the letter of a law or policy, but doing so in such a way as to openly defy the spirit of it or make other’s lives more difficult because the law/policy exists.

The new iOS App Store changes in the EU, to comply with the Digital Markets Act, have been announced and are part of iOS 17.4 (in beta now, to be released by March). Apple’s description of them sounds like good news–lower commissions and the like–but many developers are calling the changes a master class in malicious compliance. In fact, Apple’s new terms are listed as one of the examples of malicious compliance in the Wikipedia entry.

The Gatekeeper fee

Central to the complaints of most developers is a new “Core Technology Fee” that is charged on each “first install annually” for developers with more than a million users. That’s any time the app is installed for the first time in a year—even if it’s free to download. So if you have three million downloads (including app updates or downloads from sources outside Apple’s App Store), you’ll pay a Core Technology Fee of €0.50 per user (54 cents) on two million users.

Apple made a fee calculator so that developers can see what they’ll pay under the current rules and the new rules, with options to adjust downloads, sales, whether the app is distributed in the App Store or not, and whether purchases are processed by Apple or not. Many developers were shocked to plug in some seemingly reasonable numbers and find out that their apps would give up half their revenue or more to Apple even if Apple doesn’t distribute the app or process the payments. Add third-party payment processing and app store fees to that and…

Well, let’s just say it seems clear that Apple is making it as un-appetizing as possible to use anything other than the App Store. Under the current terms, an app with 5 million users and €2 million in annual sales (in the EU) will pay about €46,000 a month. Under the new terms, that explodes up to over €197,000 a month, and even if you don’t use the App Store or Apple’s payment processing, you’d pay over €166,000 a month!

Leave it to Apple to comply with a government regulation concerned with “gatekeeping” by creating a fee that could reasonably be called a gatekeeping fee: A fee developers pay just for the privilege of accessing the device and one that, of course, Apple doesn’t technically have to pay for any of its apps, many of which compete with third-party apps.

Vision Pro needs strong developer support to succeed.Apple

Vision Pro needs developer goodwill

The backdrop to all this is the launch of Apple’s first major new product category in over a decade, and maybe the most important frontier of development since the iPhone: Apple Vision Pro.

We’ve written recently about all the apps you won’t find on Apple’s $3,499 spatial computer. Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, almost anything from Google… the list is quite extensive. These aren’t just apps that won’t have native “spatial computing” versions, they’re apps that have specifically opted out of allowing their iPad apps to run in a window on Apple Vision Pro.

That’s a huge problem. With sub-million sales, this new platform can easily be ignored. Even with less than 10 million sales, most of the companies making the apps we all have come to rely on might not be bothered. Consider that native iPad apps are still not assured (e.g. Instagram) where Apple sells “only” 50-60 million units a year, and native Vision Pro apps are probably going to be harder to make.

And without lots of great apps—real, native, third-party apps—it’s going to be extremely hard for more than a few million people to justify spending thousands of dollars on a mixed-reality device. Even if the next headset only costs $1,000, it’s not going to be a big hit if the apps aren’t there.

The Vision Pro needs developer goodwill. It needs developers to take a chance on it, to build the apps that make the device desirable. This is not the time for hubris. It’s the time for Apple to bend over backward for developers, making its platforms (all of them–it’s an ecosystem!) as desirable as possible. While none of the new EU terms apply to Vision Pro, at least not yet, they’re still burning bridges with the very people who need to make Vision Pro apps. It seems like the worst possible move to tank developer goodwill with new terms that seem to be deliberately designed to anger Apple’s biggest critics and provoke regulators just as Apple Vision Pro is launching.

Virtual Reality 

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