China Targets Apple iBooks And iTunes Movies In Latest Shutdown

Sonny Go

It seems that not even the technology giant Apple is impervious to China's latest censorship efforts as Apple iBooks and Movies were shut down in the country on April 22. This comes as a shock due to the services having been introduced to China on September 2015, only seven months prior. They were the first service to introduce China to Apple's entertainment ecosystem.

The shutdown of iBooks and iTunes Movies is not an isolated issue, but it does come as a surprise as Apple had been one of the more secure companies in China. It seems to have taken Apple by surprise as their Chinese website still had job listings related to the services, which is a sign that they were planning to grow them further.

It was ordered by China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, according to sources. Chinese consumers can no longer access these services within Apple, which affects the company greatly as it has become more reliant on the Chinese market while iPhone sales have been slowing down in the U.S. and other Western markets.

Meanwhile, Microsoft and Qualcomm had been targets of antitrust investigations in China during 2015, while major websites such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter are continually blocked. Enterprise hardware companies such as Cisco and IBM had been met with lukewarm sales after Edward Snowden's NSA revelations. The government had been mounting even more pressure on Western technology companies lately, and it seems that it's not about to stop anytime soon.

While it has indeed been a sign of China's growth as a consumer-driven economy, more of the content delivered by such technologies have been put under the Chinese government's microscope. President Xi Jingping himself had commented on the state media regulators' increased responsibility in scrutinizing new media being delivered by services based outside of China.

In the meantime, Apple has stated that it hopes to make "books and movies available again to our customers in China as soon as possible" after the shutdown of iBooks and iTunes Movies. Apple had recently brought digital wallet services to China by launching Apple Pay in partnership with UnionPay, China's only domestic bank card company. It's likely that Apple will cooperate with a Chinese firm to do the same with books and movies, as is usually the case with many other foreign companies looking to do business in China.

There are domestic options in China for digital distribution of movies and other video content such as YOU On Demand, which is much like Netflix for China. There's Youku, which is China's YouTube, and Baidu, which is like their Pandora. These services are regulated by the government, with content being scrutinized and censored before being made open for Chinese audiences.

[Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images]