Looming Taiwan iPad launch suffers "complex problems" on "simplified glitch"

Apple is keeping mum in Taiwan. While it plans to launch the iPad here someday, nobody knows when that day will dawn.

According to Chin-hsien Lo, a government official who handles tech problems, Taiwan is ready for the iPad, except for one minor, yet very “complex” issue. While communist China uses the ”simplified Chinese character” writing system, which current iPads do handle, capitalist Taiwan uses the traditional ”complex Chinese” writing system which the iPad at present cannot make head or tail of.

Therefore: no iPads in Taiwan until the glitch is fixed.

When a local newspaper tried to contact Apple’s office in Taipei, it was told that iPad launch plans have not yet been finalised for this sunny subtropical island nation just 100 miles off the coast of China.

According to news reports, Apple has several licensed service-providers in Taiwan as well as a major domestic consumer electronics retailer ready to go. But so far the US computer giant has not announced the launch date.

“Until we are informed of the launch date, there is nothing we can do,” an Apple retail store staffer said.

An employee at another Apple retailer said that she expects iPad sales to begin in November when an upgrade of the tablet’s operating system to iOS 4.2 will allow Taiwanese users to input traditional complex Chinese characters. The current OS allows input in simplified Chinese characters only, which can only be read by users in China.

“It’s Greek to me,” said a Taiwanese college student when asked if she could read simplified characters.

Although the iPad has been on the market for more than six months since its U.S. debut in April, and made headlines around the world, Taiwan has not been on the launch pad yet. However,the sleek tablet is expected to make waves here, too.

For now, some savvy Taipei techies have obtained iPads from overseas, including Japan and Hong Kong, and carried them by hand into Taiwan. It’s not completely legal, however.

To get around local regulations banning the sale of parallel imported iPads – the rules say that a person is allowed to buy iPads overseas and bring them back to Taipei for their own use, but not for reselling – some impatient vendors and online sellers here have found a way to skirt the law.

In addition, some Taiwanese people are also advertising services online to purchase iPads abroad and carry them back to Taiwan – for a charge. Owners of these imported iPads are generally paying top dollar, of course.

In the end, it all comes down to a character problem for Apple in Taiwan.

Once traditional Chinese characters make peace with the iPad, there will be two different kinds of iPads on each side of the Taiwan Strait – one for China, one for Taiwan. It’s not a political issue this time. It all comes down to Mao’s legacy, because he’s the bloke who made China go “simplified,” jettisoning 5,000 years of Middle Kingdom history for the sake of his throne.