In response to an email about IAP and subscriptions affecting software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) apps such as Evernote, Dropbox, Salesforce, and arguably Readability, Steve Jobs reportedly replied:
We created subscriptions for publishing apps, not SaaS apps.
Sent from my iPhone
The response fits his style, so I’d say it’s likely that it’s real. It doesn’t really answer the question, though.
He only said that Apple didn’t create the subscriptions for SaaS apps, not whether SaaS apps can use them (are we prohibited from using them?), or whether we’re required to use them.
And even if Jobs himself would take a few minutes (during his medical leave, no less) to answer these questions more verbosely for some guy in an email, it would raise a different question: Why don’t the published guidelines reflect this clarification, and what’s stopping whoever gets your submission on the App Review team from following the literal definition?
The rule as stated, encompassing “content, functionality, or services”, sounds like it includes SaaS apps by any remotely straightforward interpretation.
If it’s rewritten and clarified to exclude functionality and services, and include only “content”, it’s still going to rely on vague definitions and a lot of gray areas, but it would solve a lot of the problems with this new rule.
(But it wouldn’t exempt Netflix or Hulu from the IAP requirement.)