I just tried to buy an iTunes gift certificate for a friend of mine from a computer which does not have iTunes installed on it. Guess what?….I can’t. I spent some time on the Apple customer sales and customer support telephone lines and they confirmed that you have to have iTunes installed to be able to buy an iTunes gift certificate.
The whole idea of a gift certificate is that you are buying a gift for some one else, so it makes no sense that the buyer should have to have iTunes installed. Apart from being just plain silly, this will hurt Apple in the Christmas period. An iTunes gift certificate is the perfect gift to accompany an iPod given as a Christmas present or for a present for some one who already has an iPod. The value of getting first time iPod owners straight into buying iTune’s catalogue cannot be underestimated. So, even though Apple will undoubtedly have an incredibly successful and record breaking Christmas period, it could have been even better for them.
There’s actually more to this story. Just to complicate things further, the friend I wanted to buy the certificate for lives in America. Even if I ordered through a computer with iTunes installed, I would not be able to buy a certificate that my friend would be able to use on the US iTunes store, even though wanted to have it posted to his US address. I can understand all of the licensing reasons behind this (and most of them aren’t Apple’s fault in this particular instance), but the digital age makes commerce global and this is yet another missed opportunity.