Apple has applied for a patent for in-app purchasing. The technique and method for purchasing content while inside an application is summarized as such:
The present technology provides a purchasing interface within an application that allows users to purchase a product from another source without leaving the application. The application offers a product for purchase, and a user, desiring to purchase the product can provide an input effective to cause a purchasing interface to be displayed. While the purchasing interface, or information presented therein, comes from the product source, which is different than the application source, it is presented in such a fashion that gives the impression to the user that they are purchasing the product directly from the application.
The patent would place it at odds with Lodsys, who already has a patent for in-app purchasing which Apple licenses.
In-app purchasing is becoming an increasingly important source of revenue for developers trying to monetise their free applications, and does not yet have a real presence on Windows Phone 7. Microsoft has recently released a game, Beards and Beaks, which does use Xbox Live credits, and may be a work-around for the Lodsys patents, but this has not been rolled out to regular developers yet.
According to Berg Insight In-App purchasing generated 300 million euros last year, will grow to â‚¬750 million this year, and hit â‚¬3.5 billion in 2015, so it is certainly an area which Microsoft also needs to address urgently.