Macworld received confirmation from Apple that the new in-app subscriptions will — theoretically, at least — be open to all apps. “Content” and “service” subscriptions are just two examples of the kinds of subscriptions that apps could conceivably offer.
However, it’s not entirely clear what criteria Apple will use to determine whether a particular app should be allowed to use a subscription model. Glenn Fleishman:
But Apple also stressed that not just every business model will pass its muster. Unlike with periodicals and streaming media apps, which are allowed to have no content or use without a subscription, apps in other categories will need to ‘make sense.’ As Apple notes on the What’s New page, ‘the experience must provide ongoing value worth the recurring payment for an auto-renewable subscription to make sense.’
We don’t yet know precisely how Apple will evaluate that, and uncertainty is bad for developers. Schiller also promised much faster app review turnaround for developers, but speed doesn’t matter if an app doesn’t meet Apple’s test, and Apple doesn’t yet offer formal advance review of app features or business model. (We have heard of developers discussing features more broadly, but informally, with developer relations staff.)
Poor communication between Apple and developers — and, in the case of the expired Mac App Store certificates earlier this year, between Apple and customers, too — has been the root cause of many of the App Store’s most significant controversies since its inception. I think a lot of developers are going to want Apple’s stance on subscriptions to be absolutely solid before they attempt to integrate it into their own apps.