Was iPad ban in aid of local distributor?

Lift of ban following “intensive technical scrutiny,” leaves many questions.

April 26, 2010 08:35
2 minute read.
Apple's iPad.

iPad Apple tech 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Following the lifting of a personal import ban on the iPad on Saturday, many Israelis are left scratching their heads, wondering why the ban had been instituted in the first place.

A week- and-a-half ago, the Communications Ministry announced that it was banning the import of iPads to Israel because the device’s wi-fi transmitter was set to American standards and could interfere with local wi-fi signals, including those of the IDF.

According to a press release issued by the Communications Ministry on Sunday, the decision to lift the ban came following “intensive technical scrutiny,” following which Communications Minister Moshe Kachlon (Likud) decided to approve the device’s entry to Israel.

“The scrutiny conducted by the ministry technical team vis-à-vis Apple’s team, international laboratory and European counterparts confirmed that the device, which could be operated in various standards, will be operated in Israel in accordance to the local standards,” the statement read.

Boaz Ordan, a well-known Apple enthusiast and importer in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that there are two schools of thought among Apple users here over the reason behind the ban.

Ordan said many are speculating that Apple’s Israeli distributor iDigital, which is owned by President Shimon Peres’s son, Chemi, did not want to repeat the same mistakes as happened with the Israeli launch of the iPhone.

Ordan said that Apple lists country by tier, with the US being first tier, European countries second tier, and Israel a third tier. By the time products get to Israel, they have often been available in first- and second-tier countries for some time, where they are also typically much cheaper.

He added that “really, no one knows for sure when the iPad will be available through iDigital in Israel.”

In the case of the iPhone, according to Ordan, by the time the product was available through iDigital, there were already over 100,000 units in country, around 70 percent of the market.

Ordan, who said he “could be iDigital’s biggest competitor in Israel”, said he believes that iDigital may have feared that with the long delay it takes products to reach Israel they would lose out on a significant share of the market as they did with the iPhone, when potential customers decided not to wait and found ways to get their hands on the product, either when traveling abroad or through independent importers.

The other option, according to Ordan, “is that somebody in the Communications Ministry just went deaf, dumb, and blind. There’s really no logical explanation for the ban, just like there isn’t any logical explanation for why it was lifted yesterday. The whole thing stinks, like somebody had some interest involved.”

Following the lifting of the ban, Israelis will be allowed to bring in a single iPad free of Customs charges. Those Israelis and tourists whose iPads were confiscated by Customs officials will be able to take them from Customs and use them here, though they may be asked to pay storage fees for the time the iPads were impounded.

The iPad is a “tablet” device that combines the functions of a notebook computer with the touch-pad interface of the iPod or iPhone.

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