If a United States enterprise has had a global impact in recent years, one can point to Apple and their success with marketing the iPod and iPhone, along with iTunes. We might have once said, “As American as apple pie.” Now we’re likely to say, “As American as Apple iPod.” Apple has gone international. Now it is ready to break through the remains of an iron shroud as Apple invades Russia and whistles a different iTune.
Throughout most of the 20th century a cold war existed between much of the world and Russia. Actually, Russia was the head state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR. There were walls, both physical and ideological, that separated the USSR from the rest of the world. Western films depicted a sensitive, hair-trigger like relationship with Russia as in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
That doesn’t mean that commerce did not break through those walls. Consumer electronics and fashionable clothing always made it through. Products were sold via the black market economy – a semi-clandestine network of business that was known to virtually anyone living within Soviet walls, referred as the Iron Curtain.
During the 17 years since Russia said goodbye to Communism, foreign companies have invested in the country more money than in any other place on earth. With dollars came western technology that at once won the hearts and minds of millions of Russians. Now imacintosh.ru is being introduced in Russia. Yes, Apple is opening an iTunes in Russia.
This is a marketing coup for Apple. Russia was once the center of music and theater. It overflowed with composers, writers, thespians, and artists. These opportunities are re-emerging in Russia. Russians are expressing more of their passions for music and performing arts.
The lack of an iTunes Store and similar solutions available for ordinary Russians has forced droves of music and video fans to obtain their favorite pieces through questionable means. Tour some of Moscow’s largest markets and you will find bootleg copies of songs and movies at an unimaginably low price. What is more, some hot titles can be bought long before their official premiere in Russia, or even Europe.
Apple’s establishment of an iTunes store in Russia, with marketing aimed toward the Russian public, is an effort to reduce piracy. Russians will not have to feel like poor cousins of their western friends, forced to get music from illegal sources. It appears that downloading music and video from an iTunes Store may be more important for a nation’s pride than the strongest army.
In a way, more than McDonalds, Apple affirms that there’s a free economy in Russia and that Russians can now choose their music and video options in a sphere of legitimacy. This hungry market is waiting to take a bite into Apple. For Apple, this means money. As Apples grow on trees, Apple’s opportunities continue to expand as they extend to new markets. Considering Jobs’ claim that there have been 250 million iPods sold, are Russians ready to increase the crop of Apples in their country? Time will tell.