Apple Invades Russia

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For many, Russia lies on the periphery of the hi-tech world. Apple, apparently, is of a different opinion. If we are to believe the billboards scattered across Moscow, the American giant is to open its first iTunes Store in the former Evil Empire as early as April 21, 2008.

Apple’s official website in Russian, imacintosh.ru, heats up the atmosphere of uncertainty. In the impregnable black background, only the company’s famous trademark is visible. Big, white letters coalesce into an English-Russian phrase: iTunes Store Dinney (Russia), design that can be found on dozens of billboards that have recently mushroomed in Moscow. The modern world has finally come to Russia.

It does not mean that until now Muscovites have been deprived of iPods and other modern gadgets. On the contrary. 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.

It is not unusual to spot the latest model of Mercedes or Lexus on the roads of Moscow and other major cities. Electronic goods follow the pattern: more and more people can afford ultra-thin laptops or plasma screen television sets. In other words, money can buy you anything, even if it had to be shipped from America or Japan.

But this rosy picture has one stain: widespread piracy. 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.

By opening its first iTunes Store, Apple will achieve two goals. First, the company will finally reach out to millions of people who are as passionate about music as their counterparts in the United States, Great Britain, or Germany. Second, the store could effectively tame piracy that only last year stole from Apple and other firms billions of dollars.

Who knows if the Russian iTunes Store will not achieve one more, impossible to measure in numbers, thing. Starting from April 21, 2008, 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.

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Krzys Wasilewski, while living in Poland, completing his masters degree in International Relations, was seduced by English Literature.