Are In-App Payments and Facebook Credits on a Collision Course?

Apple’s iOS and Facebook are very different platforms at a fundamental level. But their moves over the past month suggest that they could clash over the next year or two in some fascinating ways.

At its core, Facebook is an identity layer that is agnostic about which device or application a user touches the platform with. iOS, in contrast, has so far existed mainly to drive sales of Apple hardware.

But both Apple and Facebook want a cut of downstream revenues from the burgeoning economies that their platforms support. Apple did this from the get-go by taking 30% of revenue from paid apps, which it extended to in-app payments and now subscriptions. Facebook did this with Credits, the currency it introduced as virtual goods blossomed into a $2.1 billion U.S. market. It anchored off the price expectations Apple set, and also used the 70% to 30% revenue split.

Both have moved to consolidate power around their in-house payment systems this year. Facebook will make Credits mandatory as the sole payment option for games by July. Apple now requires that publishers offer consumers the choice of paying through iTunes for subscriptions or in-app purchases, from which it will take a 30% cut. While consumers can still pay for subscriptions outside iTunes, Apple’s system is so seamless that most consumers will probably opt for it anyway.

So this is all well and good: Apple controls payments on iOS. Facebook controls payments on canvas games. When does it get interesting?

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