Financial Times pulls its apps from Apple store

LONDON Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:18pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - The Financial Times has pulled its iPad and iPhone apps from Apple's App Store after losing a battle to keep control of customer data obtained through subscriptions.

Apple has recently begun to insist that subscriptions to apps that it hosts must go through its own store, giving Apple ownership of valuable data about customers from those transactions, as well as a 30 percent cut of revenues.

The Pearson-owned FT and Apple had been in negotiations for months but ultimately failed to reach a compromise, an FT spokesman said Wednesday.

Apple launched its own subscription service for magazines, newspapers, videos and music earlier this year but has won little support from major publishers.

The iPad tablet computer, launched a year and a half ago, created a new market popular with affluent professionals and has been a major driver of new subscriptions to FT.com, which now accounts for about a quarter of the FT's total sales.

The FT's digital subscriptions rose 34 percent to 230,000 in the first half of this year, with mobile devices accounting for 22 percent of FT.com traffic and more than 15 percent of new subscriptions.

In a move to reduce its dependence on Apple and develop apps more quickly for rival tablet computers, the FT in June launched a Web-based version of its mobile app, the first of its kind by a major publisher.

This allows readers to sign up on an FT website and then sign on any device, including the iPad and iPhone through Apple's Safari browser.

A shortcut can be installed on the device, giving an experience similar to using a native app custom-built for the smartphone or tablet being used.

A version for Google's latest Android platform, which is widely used for smartphones and tablet computers including Samsung's Galaxy Tab, is expected in September or October.

An FT spokesman said the company was encouraging subscribers to migrate to the Web-based app, which uses the open HTML5 standard that can be read by any browser, and is already being used by most mobile subscribers.

The spokesman described the disagreement with Apple as "amicable" and said the FT still planned future apps for the Apple App Store including one for the FT's luxury weekend magazine 'How To Spend It' as early as September.

This would be funded by advertising, however, not subscriptions, so there would be no conflict with Apple over who owns the subscriber data.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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