Google Responds to Apple Subscription Lock-in with Less Expensive Plan

One day after Apple shocked content makers (and, hopefully, antitrust regulators) with an antagonistic subscription publishing scheme in which it would command 30 percent of all sales and prevent its partners from fairly selling their wares elsewhere, Google announced a competing plan for its own and other mobile platforms. And not surprisingly, the Google plan, called One Pass, is far less antagonistic and less expensive for publishers.

"Google One Pass \\[is\\] a service that lets publishers set their own prices and terms for their digital content," Google Director Lee Shirani wrote in a blog post announcing the scheme, drawing an immediate comparison with Apple's less-than-friendly subscription offering. "Publishers can maintain direct relationships with their customers and give readers access to digital content across websites and mobile apps."

Although Google's plan concerns the same sort of subscription-based offerings as does Apple's, the online giant couldn't offer a more different approach. With Google, content providers pay just a 10 percent feeā€”not the 30 percent that Apple commands. (Google says that the 10 percent just "covers costs.") Google is utilizing its own Checkout service, which works across the web and many devices (not just Google Android), whereas Apple's service works only on Apple's devices, a technique known as lock-in. And with Google, publishers are free to price items as they wish, and sell them elsewhere for whatever they wish; both provisions are prevented under Apple's plan.

And unlike Apple, Google won't withhold information about new subscribers who come via the underlying platform. "The publisher is the merchant of record," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Wednesday. "We don't prevent you from knowing, if you're a publisher, who your customers are, like some other people \\[do\\]."

This, folks, is what happens when competition exists. And while Google is hardly benevolent, pressure like this could force its more recalcitrant competitor, Apple, to change its overly aggressive ways. Cross your fingers.

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