Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cuban apps in Google's (or anyone else's) online store?

A Google delegation, led by Scott Carpenter, Deputy Director of Google Ideas, and Brett Perlmutter, who had accompanied Eric Schmidt on his Cuban visit earlier this year, is in Cuba. They have visited two important technical universities and some of the Cuban Youth Computer Clubs.

At the University of Information Science, the Google representatives were asked about access to their developer's Web site. Evidently Google is required to block access to that site because the State Department lists Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism and the site contains encryption software. Hopefully Google will be able to open that site to Cuban programmers when the terrorist designation is reversed.

Students also asked whether games they had developed could be marketed through the Google Play store, and were told that was not possible at this time.

I find that a bit confusing, because it is my understanding that the US will now allow software imports from Cuba as long as the programs are produced by independent entrepreneurs and computer programmer is one of the jobs the Cuban government authorizes for self-employment.

There may be some problem with allowing Cubans to sell software through Google Play that I am not aware of, but, if that is not the case, this would seem like a quick, simple thing for Google to do. (I'll add it to my earlier posts on things Google might do in Cuba and things the Cuban government might do).

Netflix moved quickly to offer their service for sale in Cuba, and it seems that Google has an opportunity to kick off commerce in the other direction. While there is little chance of Netflix doing much business in Cuba at this time, Cuban Spanish language apps -- games or more serious things like medical or educational applications -- might sell well in the Play store.

Of course, the same applies to Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and any other company selling apps online.

Update 4/14/2015

Secretary of State Kerry has formally recommended rescinding Cuba's status as a state sponsore of terrorism. The president says he will act soon.

Assuming he follows the State Department recommendation, will that allow Google and others to list Cuban software and other content in online stores?

Will Google be able to provide Cuban programmers access to their development tools?

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