China blocks iTunes Movies, iBooks

Apple has closed its iTunes Movies and iBooks services in mainland China following an order from regulatory body, the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT).

The order arrived just seven months after the services were launched in China. Apple issued a statement saying it hopes to restore them “as soon as possible” but that looks unlikely given China’s current clampdown on internet content.

Chinese authorities issued new regulations last month restricting foreign ventures from publishing entertainment and other forms of content on the internet in China.

The news comes head of Apple’s quarterly results announcement on Tuesday (April 26), which is expected to reveal a slowdown in iPhone sales in the second quarter as the market reaches saturation.

Apple started selling the iPhone in China in early 2014, following several years of lobbying authorities, and has also managed to launch iOS apps and Apple Pay in the country, the latter in partnership with China UnionPay.

Although Apple has had a relatively easy ride in China before the removal of iTunes services, the company is included in a list of eight US tech giants that the Chinese government believes it needs to keep a close eye on due to security concerns. The other companies are Cisco, IBM, Google, Qualcomm, Intel, Oracle and Microsoft.

In addition, Apple’s general counsel said in a recent Congressional subcommittee meeting that the company had refused a request from Chinese authorities to hand over the iPhone source code. The Chinese government proposed an anti-terrorism law two years ago that requires foreign companies to turn over encryption keys.

However, this latest move is more likely to be connected to Chinese authorities’ concerns about the content Chinese audiences have access to, as well as lessening competition for local companies such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, which are all streaming content online.