Chalk up another victory for the Chinese government over international online publishing companies and their efforts. As sweeping reforms continue to roll out across the country, both iTunes Movie and iBooks have essentially ceased to exist for China’s internet users. Guess we can now replace the age-old expression “banned in Boston” with “banned in China,” right?
The new rules, according to critics, are designed to limit the influence of foreign companies on the country’s local media.
According to Reuters, attempts to access both the iBooks Store and iTunes Movies services on Friday were for naught, as they were given a Chinese message which translates to English as “unusable.” A separate report from the New York Times that cited two unnamed sources added that China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television had demanded that Apple pull both services, hence the “unusable” message on Friday.
Meanwhile, Apple offered Reuters a terse statement, promising that it hopes to bring the services back in the near future. “We hope to make books and movies available again to our customers in China as soon as possible,” said a company spokeswoman, who refused to provide any further comment to the pub lication.
China’s so-called reforms against foreign online publishers were launched in March, stipulating that non-Chinese companies are prohibited from solely or jointly owning online publishing businesses, and that all publishing content be stored in Chinese servers. This, as well as other policies imposed by President Xi Jinping’s government, have been scored by critics, claiming that they are tantamount to violations of human rights and negatively impact the business of non-Chinese companies. Still, it’s not the obvious lack of freedom that may serve as Apple’s biggest problem following this development.
The shutdown of both services could spell bad news for Apple, whose CEO Tim Cook is banking on China to eventually become its largest market, period. Greater China, which covers Taiwan and Hong Kong as well, makes up a significant piece of Apple’s revenue pie at 24 percent, and is only second to the United States at the present. And with iBooks and iTunes Movies both serving as solid monetization tools and good ways to convince consumers to buy more Apple devices, the recent shutdown could create quite a dent on Apple’s iPhone and iPad sales. And that’s not something Cupertino wants to happen, even with its status as a leader in the world of tech.
UPDATED 4/23/2016 – Business implications of services going dark