Friday, November 27, 2009

The Apple iPhone in Korea's Walled Garden

I couldn't resist the title for this post, conjuring images as it does of the Garden of Eden and what went on there, but there is some logic to that symbolism.  The Apple iPhone is about to be released in the Korean market starting tomorrow.  The Korean market, like those of China, Russia and the Czech Republic is an internet walled garden, built almost entirely on use of only Korean-language web sources and databases.  The Apple entering this garden, on the other hand, is built on a different principle:   wide access to the internet worldwide and to applications devised by internet users all around the world.   It appears possible that the Apple iPhone, like the apple in the Garden of Eden, is going to mean the end of the garden as we know it!
Most people I talk to know that Korea has the most advanced wireless networks in the world and plenty of digital capacity, so they are surprised to learn that only 10 or 11 percent of the populace purchase data plans and actually surf the internet on their 3G phones.  It seems that the Apple iPhone, along with Android and other phones to follow, are going to break that pattern once and for all.
A good editorial in the Chosun Ilbo yesterday called the iPhone a "wake-up call" for Korean telecoms.  I think it may be even more than that, since consumers here may decide they like the iPhone, its apps, and its broad use of the internet.  Once Android phones arrive, it is difficult to imagine Korean consumers staying away from some of Google's powerful cloud-computing tools.


  1. Android could allow K-telcos to retain some of that power. Android can be customized by/for the companies to lock people into their stores and services as well as lock out other apps. However, the pressure that iPhone adds may make this market prohibitive.

    As a company, I'd hope to get Android devices out as soon as possible with K-telco mods. As an individual, I hope that the iPhone model has time to sink in before the companies are able to do that.

  2. Any reason why you mentioned Czech as one of the examples of the walled garden? I know Seznam is popular there, but will appreciate it if you can share why you consider Czech a walled garden.