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back to article DRM-free music dream haunts Apple's app-store lock-in

As much as we hate the wireless carriers, we may end up hating the app store vendors even more. Why? Because they create app-level lock-in that inhibits consumers' ability to move to alternative platforms. While carriers mostly locked in users by blocking phone number portability, today's app stores prevent us from having a …

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I like your taste in alcoholic beverages, sir.

If you enjoy the Glenfiddich may I recommend you try the Ardbeg, Talisker and Caol Ila? They're all huge single malts with a real peaty kick to them. My usual favourite is the Caol Ila for the punch it packs, but if I'm in the mood for a smoother ride I go for the Talisker.

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Megaphone

for all those that don't see the problem...

why don't you all come back and tell us what you think when, in 2/3 years’ time (may be longer or may be sooner), you want to move to a device with a different OS, on another locked in app store.... I'll bet there will be annoyance/hesitation/an outright give up when you realise you have invested in potentially £100's worth of apps you don't want to lose or buy again....

On the console front, there aren't shiny new consoles with totally new, or significantly better hardware constantly coming out every 6-12 months - if anything, this gen (xbox 360/ps3) has been one of the longer generations so far, at least for me. Not least because the major innovations are plug in additions, like move/kinect. Not something you can do with a phone so easily. Consoles also don't suffer battery wear, physical damage, being lost on train, you being mugged for, etc, etc type issues that mobiles devices do.

and remember the general annoyance when the ps3 lost backwards compatibility? – a similar issue really.

having said all this, so many people are quite happy to spend another £40-£60 on a rehash of unreal tournament (i.e. another FPS), that it might not matter. money has to be spent on something to make the world go round...

as for the comment "If you can afford a smartphone ... the cost of a few apps shouldn't enter into it" That is a little short sighted. Let's take a parallel - 'if you can afford to buy a car, the extra 20p/litre petrol shouldn't enter into it' - well, not many would agree with that statement, would they? Spending a lot of hard-earned cash on something does not equate to not having to care about the on-going costs of running said item. And no one likes to pay for the same thing twice, unless it is a service or outright consumable like food. Put another way - things add up!

The code from a previous purchase idea is perfectly doable, technically. But commercially it is dead in the water, as this lock in is what the OS vendors love, and where is the app store cut going to come from?

Eventually, I think something similar to ‘Microsoft having to release the code/details of the windows APIs, so others can play nicely with them’ type thing will happen. i.e. the powers that be (EU commission) will step in to make things more portable.

Diatribe over.

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Linux

8 months?

I don't need to wait 2/3 years. My phone is a Symbian, my new tablet is an Android Eee Pad.

Both mobile OSes, but completely incompatible.

I never expected to take my apps with me (yes, I'm he who actually *gasp* bought apps from Nokia's Ovi store *ungasp*).

It's nothing to do with App Store (*) lock-in. It's to do with incompatible hardware and/or OS.

Both Symbian and Android let me install apps without going through the 'official' App Store, anyway.

I also don't expect to be able to use the Microsoft Office 2010, I recently bought for the wife, on my Linux box. Wine notwithstanding (I prefer the liquid variety).

(*) Yes. "App Store" not "Apple Store". Only one is a trademarkable name, it seems.

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Stop

Re: for all those that don't see the problem...

Or, you could have realised all this before buying a platform which has a lock-in app store and not invest heavily in applications which you won't be able to migrate. Caveat emptor, sheesh.

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Linux

8 months?

How many apps do you have on your phone really? How many of those are payware? What's the average price of them?

It might add up to one Windows game or a single boxed set of a season of something from the BBC.

No. The kicker is all of your media files that previously came in industry standard formats that were not limited to a single hardware vendor. THAT is the stuff that ends up being an expensive pile of stuff that you don't want to buy again.

"Apps" are a distraction. They are probably an INTENTIONAL distraction.

Having a large library of single-vendor media content is a much bigger problem and one that certain people don't want the proles to wise up about.

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Pint

£100's worth of apps... seriously? pffft

phone apps are so cheap... I don't get what you guys are worried about.

You spend £1500 on Adobe's Master Suite and every other year it gets replaced

with an even more buggy new version ...or Office, or whatever your poison is...

Just a crummy Windows license sets you back more than £100 every 2-3 years.

And those hard drives you keep replacing, etc etc...

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Until....

All goverment of the world understand that DRM is, because of it;s very nature, ILLEGAL. there is no hope..... for regualr joe.... i, on the other hand, only product i can remove the DRM infection from

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Phone number portability?

I can only assume you're in the USA, as elsewhere, certainly in Europe, the right to keep your number and take it anywhere you like has been the norm for several years.

The only lock in is when the phone is knobbled to prevent it connecting to another network (this is pure software level, the European market doesn't have any weird networks running systems that require completely different radio hardware like the USA). This carrier lock is annoying, but removable, either by paying a small (but still excessive fee considering how much you have spent during your 24 month contract) to your carrier at the end of your contract, or by visiting a little man in the local independent phone shop who will do it for you for £5. Or you just buy the phone in the first place.

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I can't believe this article made it onto the register

It's so amazingly unbelievably stupid and with such a profound failure to understand how the software market works on practically every other platform that really - I don't know how to begin to say how bad it is - except to say it's the kind of thing I'd expect to read in the Guardian.

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Notice the author

It's basically the same as all his other articles which amount to "why isn't everything open source and free already?"

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cpf
Boffin

Just because they could

...doesn't mean they have to. Having >$15,000 invested in Nikon lenses and camera bodies, I'm well aware that no amount if whining will make Canon come out with products compatible with my investment, and I knew that from the first purchase I ever made. From the developer's perspective, the Android and iOS apps are entirely different products that each took time to develop, and therefore they are quite entitled to separate remuneration for each.

As for moving to HTML-based apps, well, we all know exactly how well that went over the first time...

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Nothing new here

It's a trick obviously learnt from the record companies. Buy it on vinal, but now I want in on cassette for my car, now I need a CD version, and now in MP3. Yes you can rip it (albeit it's always been a legal grey area) but if it's cheap enough most people will simply pay for the convenience of getting it in the correct format.

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Anonymous Coward

If you're as old as me ...

you'll recall in the early 80s, a few people actually got EMI to exchange their vinyl for CDs ....

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Clerk

What is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) doing with an iPhone, anyway?

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jai
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why is this different to anything else?

so by this argument, the TLC pack I have for my Mini (pays for the first 3 mandatory services) locks me into the BMW Mini brand because, if I sell the Mini and buy a Ford, I can't get the unused free services for the new car.

It's the way the capitalist world works, and all the "open" evangalism that is currently going around isn't going to change that any time soon.

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Others

Same can be said for today's books. If by any chance you want to switch from paper to Kindle, you need to re-buy your books for Kindle. Even within Kindle, Amazon was rather reluctant to allow sharing books between your own Kindle devices.

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Childcatcher

Flamebait

How on earth did this trolling flamebait article end up on el reg?

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No Sense

This whole thing is basically a personal rant about not wanting to pay again. It's a total red herring. Unless you are in some strange 0.0001% of consumers who's paid hundreds of pounds on apps (if this fictional person even exists) then financially this is irrelevant. If a new phone is more than £50 cheaper than an iPhone you can probably buy all the apps again and have some change left over. If people buy a new iPhone instead of a new Android/RIM/WP phone instead this won't be the reason.

I have a couple of games for PC and now I have an XBox, should I call EA & MS up about giving me another free copy? Or should I stop, think for a minute and not whine like an ass.

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App-Store Lock in is nothing new

the same type of 'lock in' exists in the computer and video game console market. Playstation 2 games don't play on Playstation 3.

There is nothing stopping App owners to keep their old phones for the 'backward compatibility'.

Another example: I moved from a PC to a Mac and had to repurchase MS Office for Mac, it was also part of a tech refresh so was ok. One could also argue that App-Store purchases are dwarfed in price compared with traditional software and video game prices.

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WTF?

befuddled guy or silly person goes shopping.. Anyone interested?

Could you keep personal excuse systems out of a news reporting and analysis site..

This piece is offensively self-indulgent and the absence of sense and reason does not add to charm or interest you think it had..

Still, I might be wrong - perhaps your shopping choices truly are fascinating given the amount of essays on shopping you provoked. Sad.

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WTF?

What a crap article.

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What?

I couldn't buy my son a 'droid, because it wouldn't run the apps we'd bought for his iPhone? What kind of a complaint is that? My copy of MSOffice for Windows wouldn't install under Mint, and neither Windows nor Mint was able to run games I had bought for my PS2; this is normal, I expected it, and, somehow, I coped.

Mind you, I naively assume that, since 'droid is Linux-based, and nominally open source, all the apps for it will be free, so perhaps I should cut you a little slack.

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Not all free

But many very good ones are, yes.

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fixed it for you

"One click away from the Samsung Capitvate which is free on a £25/month contract, however, I stopped. It struck me that we'd have to repurchase all of the apps that he and I share (which include Real Soccer 2011 and Conquest) about £20's worth on our current iOS devices. And once he started buying Android apps, our app purchasing paths would continually diverge. I'm married with four kids: I can't afford too much app divergence. I reluctantly got him an iPhone, which cost £400 on a £35 a month contract. Aren't I a genius"

Now can I interest you in some magic beans?

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Spot on.

LOL, you sum it up perfectly.

As I've said before, these app markets have turned us into cheapskates. I have 20 paid apps on my droid devices for which I paid a princely sum of £22.75. One game blew the budget at £2.34.

In short, it's ridiculously cheap. Stop whining and pay the pence.

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FAIL

Platform fail

Surely if you'd not bought into Apple and gone Android earlier you'd actually have the choice of a good number of different devices to run your Android apps on?

I'd expect to be able to retrieve my paid-for Android apps for reinstallation if I changed from my HTC to a Samsung, though admittedly haven't had to try it yet.

You just bought into a (more) locked-down closed platform.

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Anonymous Coward

Its got you already then

From most of these responses, it would already seem that people expect to pay multiple times for the same data, on a different platform/device.

Well done Apple!

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FAIL

What?

@AC 12:40 - It's not the same data though, is it? An Android app and an iOS app are absolutely different data. if you diffed them you'd get quite a lot of hits I'd imagine. The data in them may be arranged in a certain way to perform the same function but some skilled person had to take the time and effort to move the blocks around in the puzzle so they made the same picture. Amazingly enough, that skilled person might want paying for their skilled labour.

Nobody other than the Mad Hatter here thinks any different. I mean, seriously, has this bloke ever published an el Reg Article that a moment's analysis didn't show to be utter cobblers?

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Big Brother

apple is

It's own problem, not the p.c. makers. It's success is in tying you to it's products so that you stop yourself from buying an android and buy an iphone instead. I recently became an ipad user, guess what stops me from doing what I want on the ipad? Itunes. I can't just buy an ipad and use it, I have to have an ipad AND a computer, and if I'm tied to itunes I might very well buy an apple computer...especially if I'm a young, or first time buyer. How long before this is considered a monopoly and apple gets pinged like microsoft did?

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Anonymous Coward

@Nanners, RE: monopoly

with all due respect, this is not monopoly behaviour. Clearly not as Google keep telling us how big Android is in the smartphone and tablet arena.

Can people please stop all this "Apple is a monopoly" crap - the only market Apple could be considered having a monopoly is in Apple products. If you don't want an iPad or an iPhone or a Mac you have plenty of alternatives - for fuck's sake, this is no more monopolistic behaviour than Ford forcing you to put petrol in your car in order to keep on using it.

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Linux

Monopoly

> with all due respect, this is not monopoly behaviour.

Sure it is. It's the same process that allowed Microsoft to be bully OEM into doing it's bidding.

The main difference here is that is just a single company rather than a collection of them. In that respect it is WORSE because presents a smaller surface area for attack for any potential rival.

It also reduces choice in a more drastic and obvious way.

In that regard the whole "single vendro" thign may be less sustainable and ultimately better for the rest of us.

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Anonymous Coward

@JEDIDIAH

With all due respect (which to be fair is getting less and less as this continues) Apple do not have a monopoly.

Apple have a small percentage of the phone market, and as Google are boasting Android has over 50% of the smartphone market (with similar figures for tablets) there is no fucking way on God's green fucking earth that Apple can be accused of having a fucking monopoly. Especially as Apple software only runs on Apple hardware.

This has as much similarity to Microsoft's monopolistic behaviour regarding OEMs as a cat has similarity with the number i.

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Oh..

And we hate the carriers because they are uniformly a bunch of utter... well, fill in your own word, who do their level best to obfuscate and obdurate things to an immoral level get as much cash out of their customers for the minimal possible provision of goods and have customer service standards that would make you average dictator state secret police complaints department seem like a paragon of virtue.

Not being able to use the apps you've bought on an entirely different mobile platform pales into gross insignificance compared to some of the stunts the telcos have pulled in the past. I mean, Jesus what a crybaby you are.

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Happy

It is possible

It is pretty simple to offer a cross platform license. Just provide the app for free and then implement a licensing system that requires you to enter a code which then registers with an online database. That is how the vast majority of computer software works and how apps like CoPilot satnav (I switched from android to windows mobile6.5 without any problems) then the app store is irrelevant.

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It could be done differently

You could just have a distribution and do the payment via license files, if the programmer chooses to require payment.

App-Stores are just the lazy solution to that problem, and the big problem is that they require DRM which leads to many people breaking the copy protection in order to be able to use their devices.

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So, what was the REAL point?

I may be wrong, but if I remember correctly, Matt Asay was always pro-Apple.

So what I think, is that he actually wanted his son to have an iPhone, but couldn't find the right argument to deny the kid an Android.

And when he finally found the right argument - money - he also found the stuff for a new column.

Win-win for Matt Asay.

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WTF?

Logical Disconnect

It seems to me that the whole App Store concept drives otherwise intelligent people into total logical disconnect. About the only thing I can find that differentiates App Store purchases from boxed software is that App Store finally links software "ownership" to a single user or family, making it difficult to resell purchased software.

All of the other issues of "lock-in" are nonsense, and quite ironic that after nearly two decades of Microsoft/Windows dominance, we're finally in a position of true competition on the desktop and mobile front, and the media is awash with the obvious consequence of choice: incompatibility. Has everyone forgotten the golden decade of the 1980s where people bought a new microcomputer every couple of years, and had to throw out most of their software and start again?

We do need to find a solution for some of these issues - for expensive apps like creative and office suites people really will feel locked to a platform, but companies will have to find ways to give users store credit to crossgrade when needed. At the moment the app store model is quite immature, but these things will come.

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Not monopolistic behavior

Vendor lockin is one aspect of it, and Apple does lock people in.

But, monopolists (like Microsoft) also "play dirty" to knock competitors out of the market.

Apple has not dropped IPhone prices to try to banrkupt competitors then when they are gone raise prices up to normal (Microsoft did this with Word and Office to knock Lotus, Wordperfect Corp, etc. out of business.)

They don't have contracts requiring AT&T to pay a royalty on every phone sold (as Microsoft has done, putting clauses in contracts where both OEMs and enterprise customers will have to pay Microsoft for *every* computer, even if it's running MacOS or Linux).

Finally, part of monopolistic behavior depends on market share -- a vendor who is dominant in a market is monopolistic for doing certain behaviors while in a competitive market the same behaviors are merely competitive.

As much as Apple fanbois want IPhone without the consequences of Jobses control freakery.. well, tough shit. There are numerous competitors that do not have the lockdowns the IPhone does. I would never by an IPhone for exactly the reasons you guys are complaining are monopolistic.. they are not monopolistic in the least, but I still wouldn't buy a product from a company with those kinds of attitudes, so I don't.

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Lockin solution? Free apps

A few comments:

1) I don't see divergence as a problem in the least. I assume running the same app on two devices involves two purchases. So, at that point, it doesn't matter if they are two IPhones or one IPhone and one Android phone.

2) Solution to lockin? Don't buy so many apps. No way in hell I'd switch to an IPhone, but repurchasing apps is not a reason for me not to do it. I've got one ~$8 or so app; at least on Android supply of apps that may show a little ad when running but are free (or the choice of paying and not having the little ad.)

3) As for the bit about Apple's "solution" via HTML5, yeah, don't even pretend that is something Apple "invented". Any IPhone or smartphone can load up a web page with plenty of Javascript on it and have been able to for years, and I know IPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Palm can all make an icon that goes straight to it too. The new thing is Apple trying to make a cash grab on subscriptions and suggesting web apps as a "solution".

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astonished

I read this article with a bit of astonishment. I appreciate that it is a diverse world and that people's attitudes different, but I was somewhat taken aback by some of the concepts raised.

First of all a bit of context. Of the apps quoted, Conquest is £2.39. There isn't a 'Real Soccer' but he possibly means Real Football 2011 @ £2.99. These prices aren't back breaking, but I understand the author's attitude is that licencing should be on the basis of 'family and friends', so that one copy is bought and then shared. This attitude may not, of course, coincide with the developer's, but I'm not sure the author had the developer's interests at heart anyway. They are, after all, charging extortionate amounts for their games and deserve to be ripped off in any way possible.

Secondly, as has been suggested, the article is misplaced in my view. The author seems to think the vendor is Apple. I would disagree. If you can't buy an app for multiple platforms then it's the developer you should complain to. The author seems to have a distortion field associated with mobiles. If there's a lock in on a games console or PC it's not the console manufacturer that has locked you in. It's the creator of the app. Commentators have listed some apps/games where the developer has allowed multi platform use, but this is rare. Why the author believes the mobile world should be different is not clearly explained.

The author possibly makes money from writing articles. If he wrote an article for The Register which was then published by Wired, would he be pleased? Why he thinks he has a right to short change developers .. AND to broadcast the fact in an article .. seems a bit disconnected.

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Happy

OTS Solutions

Ya you are right, It is difficult to afford too much app divergence. But I think lots of apps are free of cost. and if you can gift your son a smartphone, you can also afford for apps also. Some are free of cost and while others are very cheap

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Pint

What this article complains about is not app-store lock-in, but phone-OS lock-in

What this article complains about is not app store lock-in, but phone OS lock-in

And sharing your iPhone apps with your entire family may not be what the app developers had in mind to begin with. Did you read their licensing fine print?

If you want to leave the iPhone eco system, you can all share your Android Apps, as long as you create one family email address and link your Android Market account to that email.

Android app developers may also be dismayed to find a single app sale running on 5 phones.

At any rate, with Android, you can download PowerAMP for Android anywhere you like, not limited to any particular app store, but your purchase is locked to the email address on any given app store account, be that Amazon, Android Market the dev's website or any other place.

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