When I first started in the technology business, the practice of marketing differently in various geographies was common. The same product might be sold in Canada for 10% more than it cost in the United States. And watch out if you were European – 100% mark-ups were common. Ostensibly companies localized products for various markets, which justified the mark-up. The reality, however, was that English-language product sold in Canada was virtually identical to that sold in the US, French-language product sold in Canada was virtually identical to France, and so on. The result was a thriving “grey-market” where US product would be imported into Canada, and French-Canadian product re-exported to France.
Thankfully that practice has mostly died. The advent of the internet brought that change. That is, until now.
You see, Apple’s app store is reviving the practice of restricting access to products in different markets. Two very large corporations this week have released products that are only available to US customers – News Corp, with the Daily for iPad, and Microsoft, with OneNote for iPhone / iPad. Microsoft event sent me email inviting me to try OneNote, which is apparently free “for a limited time”. But when I went to actually install the app, iTunes said no-way, Jose!