Google Drive, Dropbox, and iOS
Bill Campbell on Google+ asked if Google will work within Apple’s App Store policy to get Google Drive in the iOS app store:
With regard to the iPads and Google Drive, the following bothers me. You may already know there is currently no Google Drive app for iOS. While Google is reported to be working on it, one reason it might not become available on iOS might be Apple’s policy, which resulted in them removing apps that supported Dropbox from the App store. The ability to buy more Google Drive space directly from Google without Apple getting their 30% service fee could be considered a violation of Apple’s app store rules.
The issue with Dropbox was the link to sign-up for a paying account from within the app itself. As soon as Dropbox removed it, all of the affected apps were approved and subsequently put in the app store. Dropbox is still free to offer paid subscriptions and Google Drive will be as well—they just won’t be able to advertise it in the app without also giving Apple the standard 30% cut.
I don’t imagine this would be a huge show-stopper for Google—who has tons of alternate avenues to promote their product. They are, of course, and advertising company after all. I think that Google understands that a lion’s share of the interaction with their products (I’m looking at you Google Docs) happens in the browser, not on the mobile platforms. Coincidently, Google Docs seems to be where Drive is most tightly integrated.
It’s easy to paint Apple as a ruthless dictator of the App Store ecosystem, but when you look at it from a pragmatic approach. If they didn’t charge for in-app purchases, then a significant segment of developers would dodge paying Apple at all by releasing free apps with links to paid upgrades outside the store. I’m talking less about Dropbox, Google Drive, and Amazon Kindle and more about the short-sighted, opportunistic apps that show up from time to time. Publishers with weekly or monthly subscriptions would also be getting a free ride and bandwidth for a one gigabyte Retina-quality magazine certainly isn’t free. After credit card processing, storage and bandwidth (free apps cost Apple money), and other infrastructure, the App Store contributes to less than 1% of Apple’s overall profits.
Apple, unfortunately is not in a position to pick and choose when to enforce this policy (it doesn’t explain why the Amazon app hasn’t been yanked, but it does explain why Amazon hasn’t updated that app in ages). They have to enforce it and they have to enforce it across the board—even if that occasionally leaves a bad taste in our collective mouthes.
Again, I don’t think it’s a significant obstacle for Google at this juncture. They don’t need to link to the paid subscription from the app. The kind of users willing to pay are the same ones who will find out how through Google’s other channels.
Google Drive for iOS has significant technical challenges in terms of iOS’s sandboxing and whatnot. For example, if you fire up Google Drive and open up a Word document in Pages—how do you get it back into Google Drive? With the way that iOS is setup, it would require Apple to build support for Google Drive into Pages, which is about as likely as Google Docs supporting iCloud anytime soon.