International AppStores: The medieval side of the iPad

It’s been over a month now since the release of the first iPad models.  Apple has sold over a million units of all models, in just 28 days, and there are no signs that sales are slowing down.  Thousands of new applications have been made available on the iTunes AppStore, specifically adapted or designed from the ground up for the iPad.  All seems to be going well, but one thing in all of this bothers me.

There can be no question that a lot of the iPads sold in this first month are no longer in the US, as Apple has taken steps to limit the number of iPads anyone can buy, supposedly in an effort to contain the purchases of large number of devices for international shipment.  I won’t question Apple’s decision of limiting the initial release of the iPad to the US as I feel no company can be expected to be able to simultaneously release a new product, a new physical product, all around the world at the same time.  I won’t question Apple’s decision to impose this per customer limit at this time either, even though it has led to some weird situations such as the customer that has been banned from purchasing iPads for life.

What I find really odd is that Apple seems to just pretend that there no international iPad users as the people who have purchased the device either while traveling or through the gray market are blocked from getting iPad applications from their regional stores.  I’ve always considered it odd that Apple has a store for each country, but I can understand that the archaic nature of licensing deals for content have forced the company to work that way.

What I find truly amazing is that Apple embraced that same archaic form of organizing content in putting together its AppStore.  It could be a convenience offering the user access in his own language and regionally specific applications, but that doesn’t really require a separate store, it just requires the user to fill out some preferences.  With the release of the iPad these restrictions on what users can purchase or even download for free has reached pathetic levels.

When user tries to connect to his regional AppStore with an iPad he is simply blocked.  That is it. End of story.  No downloading free apps or purchasing some of those new iPad applications you international scum!   The worst of it is that versions of the applications adapted for the iPad are already available on those stores, if the application is a universal binary that can work with both the iPhone and the iPad.  Still, the user isn’t even allowed to download such applications, or even to connect to the store from his/her iPad.

It is depressing that the same company that creates such a fantastical device as the iPad can be so medieval in the way it treats its customers.  Many of these people have traveled with the specific purpose of getting an iPad or paid ridiculously inflated prices to acquire them through the gray, but legal, market.  Many of these customers are software developers, CEOs, CTOs and other top executives and they all have a bad experience in using the product because of artificial restrictions.

There can be no technical reasons for a company of Apple’s resources not have made iPad applications available to all international AppStores during the month that has passed since the device was introduced.  The fact that it didn’t just forces customers to seek a work around for the difficulty and offers incentive for them to Jailbreak their devices in search of  applications to install.  To work around the AppStore block, users have to download iPad compatible  applications to their Macs or PCs and then sync them to iPad.  This precludes the new iPad-specific apps as these are not available.

I find it amazing, disappointing and depressing that more than fifteen years after Amazon started shipping books worldwide from a single and very simple website, Apple can’t manage or be bothered  to service customers of digital downloads in more than one country.

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4 Responses to “ “International AppStores: The medieval side of the iPad”

  1. Bob says:

    Regarding Amazon’s single website, did you know that it is impossible to use a gift card bought at the .com site to buy items from the .co.uk website? They’re not as internationally-friendly as you’d imagine.

  2. Jan Rychter says:

    I’ve complained about iTunes Store segmentation many times. Apple explains that countries other than USA are discriminated by the media right owners — but then, why the silly App Store restrictions? I fully agree that Apple needs to start treating its worldwide clientele at least reasonably.

  3. Mauricio Longo says:

    Actually I did not know that. I do know that Amazon does not sell all products for shipping to anywhere, but all in all, they do sell books to people anywhere (some export restrictions may apply). My main point with the Amazon example was to that there are no acceptable technical justifications.

  4. Jason says:

    Quite a few years ago, while travelling through the states, my wife signed up to iTunes using the address of the hotel we were staying in.

    Thanks to this, we can now purchase from USA iTunes Store (using redeemed cards we get our American friends to buy for us) and the Australian Store through my account.

    I keep waiting for them to plug the gap, but so far, so good.

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