Thursday, August 21, 2008

Apple Pissed Off Beijing? Mistake or On Purpose?

Here's the gist.  Sydney Morning Herald is reporting a blogger in China Apple support told her that her access to iTunes was not being blocked at their end.  Why is this significant?

An album called Songs For Tibet was being downloaded and offered for free to Olympics athletes as a means of protest.  The album was launched on August 5 on iTunes.  The Art of Peace Foundation offered the album free of charge to the Olympians.  By downloading and and listening to the album, it was a way for the athletes to show their support for the Tibetan people.  

It not clear if this was something Apple was aware of.  After all, could Apple really not catch this before allowing music that is likely to piss off the overlords of the biggest consumer market in the world?  Well, sure.
It's possible given how stretched Apple is with the launches of iPhone worldwide and the problems they're having to deal with such as MobileMe and 3G connectivity issues.  

Plus, the title of the album sounded harmless enough.  With sounds, videos, and movies added all the time, it's entirely possible the addition of a politically charged album was given the same treatment of any other music.  According to SMH, the proceeds would go towards projects favored by the Dalai Lama.  Ouch. 

But suppose Apple did know about this.  Think differently, are they?  Just about ever Western companies have capitulated to the will of the Beijing government.  It's as if the nation of 20% of the world's population was more important than the rest of the 80%.  

I'm not going to get political here.  But folks should know what it's like to deal with the Chinese government.  A lot of times, it's their way or, well, just their way.  It's the nature of capitalism.  Just ask the Chinese guy Jerry Yang helped Beijing locked away.

That said, suppose Apple knew about the charged nature of the album and the situation it can create but decided to roll the dice and see what they come up with.  Would it be such a bad bet standing up to Beijing?

Outside of China, there are five billion plus consumers would may appreciate a company that finally stood up to a totalitarian government everyone from GM to Coke to all the foreign leaders who showed up for the opening ceremony.  Standing up to the Communist government is a claim Yahoo and Microsoft cannot claim.  For all the worth of "do no evil" mantra adopted by Google, it simply is not willing to walk away from 20% of the search market and relinquish it to Microsoft, Yahoo, or Baidu.  

Sure, Chinese patriots will rip Apple and profess never to buy a Mac or an iPod.  But there could be more outside of China just might look look at Apple's iTunes protest favorably enough to decide to make their next phone an iPhone or their next laptop a Macbook.  Imagine folks in Congress starts to mandate the federal government only deal with companies that does not bow to the will of the Chinese government.  Apple could sell more iPhones and Macs than they ever dream of in China!

What a story this would be but let's face it.  Apple is a corporate entity whose purpose to is make as much only as possible.  As digital music news said best, "Ultimately, Apple, Google and other high-flying companies are forced to modify their content and approach, or risk exclusion".  

More reading related this issue:
We'll follow up on this once the news outlets and tech blogs pick up on this.  This could be interest if Apple affirms this ploy or an "honest mistake" by Apple.

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