I read yesterday a news piece in NewsWeek about Apple taking a back seat in China as far as promoting their iPods. Mr. Salkever gives all the appropriate numbers for GDP as well as sale figures of electric shavers and high end mobile phones. His statements are accurate and I won’t debate them here. I am a “machead” living and working in China and I can say without a doubt that Apple is ignoring this market to a large extent.
I needed a new ibook a few months back because mine had suffered an unfortunate accident. I did what I always do, which is check online for the closest apple store to get an idea of the cost involved. I looked up Apple’s website for China and proceeded to browse it even tough it was mostly written in Chinese. I do realize that it is a localised version of the mothership’s main page but I would expect for such a big company to have an localised English version as well. That was my first disappointement. I headed over to DELL’s Chinese website and sure enough, it gave an option to browse in English. Dell apparently realizes the importance of the expat community in this country and they do well serving it. I don’t have access to the latest statistics regarding the number of foreigners here but I can assure you that it is quite high. When a need arises, we tend to try and fill it with brand names we’re familiar with. DELL knows that and they sell a pretty decent number of PCs to foreigners in China. Why doesn’t Apple do the same?
DELL’s systems were a close match to those offered in the U.S.A. imagine my surprise when I looked at the ibooks on Apple’s site and found out that not only were they outdated (they offered the G4 800 at a time when the G4 1.0 GHz had been out for over 2 months) but also much pricier than anywhere else. The base model was listed at 10900 RMB (roughly 1320 USD). WOW. That is almost enough to buy a refurbished powerbook in other places. Let me see if I got this right: You want me to pay an extra $300 for a ibook model that is EOL in the rest of the world? give me a break. A quick glance at Apple’s other Asian website showed more reasonnale prices as well as the more recent model. Why not in China?
Price was not really the issue her as I am aware of taxes and duties that affect the M.S.R.P. I still don’t understand why it took them roughly 3 months to update the system. I ended up buying it about 2 weeks ago when I could have had it and used it for the last 3 months.
We always here about China’s potential as the world’s leading marketplace. We keep thinking that it will happen it the next few years. Wake up call, everybody. It is happening right now. Come over here and take a walk in Beijing, Tangshan, Hangzhou, Urumuqi or any other town. Look at the pricy cellphones they’re using. Look at the cars they’re driving. Look at the clothes they’re buying and even the cigarettes they’re smoking. There is plenty of money waiting to be spent. Everyone is fighting for a piece of the pie except Apple.
I was chatting with my co-worker when he asked me about how much I paid for my Sony Ericcson Z600. I mentioned the price which was roughly 3 times his monthly salary and he flashed his new mobile that cost him double of what I paid….. he was using a new cellphone that cost him 6 months worth of salary. He could buy 2 ipods for that price. Same thing happened with my ibook. I was asked about the price and I mentioned 11000 RMB. The answer I recieved was :” that’s cheap, I was thinking that the cheapest Apple computer was 20000RMb”
Overall, in the last 5 months in China, I helped Apple sell 3 ibooks and 7 ipods. These guys wanted the technology, they had the money, and happened to ask for my advice. Where’s my commision? Wake up, Apple, and smell the Baijio.