Amazon and Vudu have launched new web apps that bring media to iPad users without requiring you to download and install an app. The Amazon Cloud Reader lets you read Kindle eBooks on a computer web browser or an iPad, while the Vudu web app lets you stream videos from Vudu’s subscription-based service.
What these two new services have in common is that not only can you use them without installing an app — but the companies can push out new features and other updates without getting approval from Apple. Oh yeah, and they can or rent you content without sharing 30 percent of the revenue with Apple.
Apple recently rolled out new rules that require any apps with built-in support for in-app purchases, subscriptions, or rentals use Apple’s in-app payment system and share a cut with Apple. That means newspaper and magazine apps, streaming music and video apps, or eBook app providers have a choice: Fork over a share of any purchases to Apple or remove the ability to purchase content from the app itself.
Amazon’s iOS app had never actually had an integrated eBook store. Instead, when you clicked the Kindle Store link you were dumped out to a web page where you could purchase books and have them delivered to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad so you could read them with the app. But in response to Apple’s new rules, Amazon recently removed even that link. A number of other eBook apps did the same, and Kobo has launched its own web app.
The new Amazon Cloud Reader gets around this entirely by allowing you to read Kindle eBooks without using an app at all. But you can also cache books so that you can read them even when you don’t have an internet connection. The web app is divided into Cloud and Downloaded sections.
Unfortunately the Cloud Reader doesn’t appear to support the mobile Safari browser on my iPod touch… at least not yet.
Vudu’s new web app for streaming video is the company’s first play for the iPad space. While Vudu has been rolling out support for web browsers, game consoles, and other platforms in addition to its Vudu branded set-top-boxes, the company has never offered an iPad app. If the web app is successful, I suspect the company never will.
On the other one hand, the launch of these two apps are another sign that Apple has frustrated app developers with its new payment rules… but on the other, I have to wonder if this might be what Apple has wanted all along. The company touts the App Store as one of the most important features of its iOS products, but when Apple first launched iOS it didn’t even run third party native apps. It could only run web apps. The company’s vision was for a future where the web was the development platform.
Maybe Apple is trying again to encourage developers to adopt that vision now that HTML5 and other web technologies can make web apps so much more powerful than they would have been a few years ago. Or maybe the company is just trying to squeeze as much money out of developers as it can.