iTunes Store may launch in Russia, cheaper than U.S.

Apple is reportedly planning to launch iTunes Store music downloads in to Russia’s fast-growing internet market.

Business paper Vedomosti reports local music industry sources as saying Apple is currently negotiating for licenses, with launch likely in Q4 2012 or Q1 2013, and tracks priced below $0.99.

The apparent opening comes as Apple is also reportedly gearing up to launch iTunes Store in South Africa, too.

This appears part of a broader emerging markets strategy. Nearly 12 years after it first launched, iTunes Store finally went live in Brazil and 15 other Latin American countries, often plagued by difficulties in credit card processing, in December 2011.

That expansion has been credited as one of the key reasons global digital music sales have lifted in recent quarters.

The Russian market is crying out for an effective legal digital music service. Physical sales there are in precipitous decline, but even digital sales fell by 40 percent last year, to 2009 levels.

The music industry’s IFPI says: “It is currently being held back by a culture of copyright infringement that is epitomised by the music service run by the leading social networking site vKontakte.” The network includes built-in file-sharing.

Smartphones comprised 21 percent of mobile shipments in Russia in 2011 – up from just five percent in 2005, according to IDC.

Apple’s share of Russian smartphone shipments barely grew between 2011 and 2012, from eight percent to nine percent, IDC says.
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