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Simon Phipps

With a focus on open source and digital rights, Simon is a director of the UK's Open Rights Group and president of the Open Source Initiative. He is also managing director of UK consulting firm Meshed Insights Ltd.

Amazon Escapes the App Trap Too

Apple's inflexibility and greed has forced Amazon to release an HTML 5 Kindle that you'll love.

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You may remember in June I commented on how the Financial Times had decided to opt out of Apple's sharecropping App Store scheme for publishers. If you followed the links in the last sentence you will have noticed I expected Amazon to be the next to opt out, choosing to keep the revenue from the Kindle out of Apple's undeserving hands.

Well, it's happened. As TechCrunch noted today, Amazon has quietly launched Kindle Cloud Reader, a full-featured HTML 5 version of the Kindle that runs perfectly on the iPad browser, looks for all the world like a native application after it's been added to the iPad home screen as an icon and can even store books to read offline.

Why would they do this? Why go to all the time and expense of re-implementing a perfectly acceptable iPad app as HTML 5? The most obvious reasons flow directly from Apple's attempts to rule the app market with a rod of iron.

First, in order to gain admission to Apple's App Store, developers have to use Apple's tools to develop strictly-policed platform-specific code. No publisher wants to be tied to a platform like that, so using a more platform-neutral technology like HTML 5 is an obvious move. The new HTML5 app also works fine on computers in Chrome and Safari, and Amazon clearly plan to support other HTML 5 browsers soon.

Second, and much more important for Amazon, Apple insists on a punitive commission for publishing through its App Store, even on books bought elsewhere. Moving out of the App Store has the clear benefit of leaving Amazon with the whole sum paid for books.

Third, it means Amazon retains control of the customer relationship, using its own single-sign-on solution rather than having to marry Apple's. As I know well from our experiences at ForgeRock, the customer sign-on is the key control-point in the entire IT system, and Amazon no longer has to share it with Apple.

The only negative is marketing. Since Amazon has a strong ecosystem and brand for Kindle outside Apple they have no need to the market klout Apple offers. There's no reason on earth they should have to pay anything more than a nominal fee to Apple - if anything at all, Apple should probably be paying for Kindle to be on iPad.

So Apple's greed has done Amazon a favour, forcing them to refactor their project and in the process enabling them to address new markets. If you have Safari or Chrome, give it a try at read.amazon.com - it works fine with a UK Kindle account (it will be added as a device to your account so take care you don't run out of "slots"). Who will be the next to switch? Who will be first to offer an HTML 5 app store for iPad? The race is on!


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