Post of the Day
October 28, 1999
Posts selected for this feature rarely stand alone. They are usually a part of an ongoing thread, and are out of context when presented here. The material should be read in that light.
As promised, a few observations from the land of the rising sun.
This past week I was in both Pusan and P'ohang ROK. Whenever I'm in that neck of the woods, I like to stroll down to the local marketplace where one can find any number of skillfully manufactured knock-offs. Like not-quite Rolexes or I Can't Believe Its Not a Sony Playstations. In particular, the Koreans make very nice clothing which they can tailor make from a magazine photo. So it was that I was waiting for a very nice quasi-Armani suit to be made that I happened by a vendor offering a variety of computer software and other IP type products. Not a new thing. Homemade MS products are routenly offered over here, especially Office, Word and especially Windows. But something new was there this time- pirated Mac software. Office for Mac, MAc OS 8.5 and a few duel platform games. This coincides with new popularity of computing and the Mac in Korea. When your products create a black market you know you have arrived.
iGODZILLA Vs. BILL GATES
Today I took a tour of the computer store nearest me here on Okinawa. Consider it partial repayment for all of you who have taken the time to go into a CrapUSA lately. In an earlier post I stated that I didn't expect to see an iBook here anytime soon because I assumed that AAPL would tend to the domestic shortages first. Not so.
The store I went to astounded me. No, AAPL does not have a branded store here (a la COW) but this store might as well have been. Outside there were numerous Mac flags and banners blowing in the breeze as well as very large product posters in the windows. Inside, there were 20+ iMacs of various configurations (333MHz, DV, DVSE) on display complete with interactive display software and interesting demos. The display tables were mobbed with onlookers all touching and playing. By the time I left the Bugdom tune was driving me insane.
In addittion there were 6 iBooks (3 of each color) on display, also recieving their due attention. Add an entire wall of G4s and PBs and AAPL took up well over 3/4 of the floor space. I asked the counter help (my Japanese is so-so) how many of each they had. Answer, 25 iBooks, and well over 100 iMacs. Also 50 or so G4s (400s and a few 450s). No wonder none of you can find them, they're all over here!
Oh, and by the way, Wintel was there too, off in the corner. And most of those were very small, feature rich Sony Viao type notebooks.
But the real magic here was in the bredth of iDevices. Candy colored DVs, JPEG VC cameras, scanners, printers, flat panel TVs and even a FIREWIRE KAREOKE MACHINE. And my personal vote for all-time brilliant invention- a plastic "shell" that, when snaped on to you're hockey puck mouse, makes it the shape of a normal mouse. Cost: about $3.
These last two weeks Macs have accounted for 50% of computer sales in Japan. 50%.
Its interesting to see how home-computing is treated here and in other Asian countries (notably ROK and Taiwan). Relatively speeking, very few homes have computers. This, in a country where families routenly purchace high end video and camera equipment, cars have LCD TVs in them and Nintendos and SPXs are issued at birth.
No, the lack of penetration of the computer here and elsewhere in Asia is due in so small part to their being OVER COMPLICATED and not UTILITARIAN for the money. Once you take away Busines productivity (the Japanese do not mix home & work the way we do) and what does a PC do for the consumer? Nada. And how does it augment or enable other more utilitarian consumer technologies? It doesn't.
JAPANESE CONSUMER ELECTRONICS AND THE GREAT CONVERGANCE
The Japanese are masters at packing utility and function into tech devices. Visit my house and you will see a rather large, expensive home theater set-up with AV cables and speaker wires winding every which way. Sounds great, but it is uniquly and HUGELY American, like those SUVs we're so fond of. Japanese home, OTOH, are characterized by very small, compact and function rich mini-systems. And FORM does play a function. Less BOOM perhaps, but then again do I realy need to watch Showgirls in earsplitting Digital Dolby?
Home computings traditional "killer aps" have not had the impact here that they've had elswhere because they are either not valued (productivity) or because better, cheaper alternatives exist (video games). It has long been my position that this is true to some extent in the US as well. Before the internet, PCs were kewl to be sure, but how many average families could justify the cost and bother to get one?
At any rate, there is a new paradigm being formed. And it is one that places the home computer squarely in the center of the consumer's life. Digital convergance (TV, Video) with the ability to manipulate those medium and birth a new era in connectivity for the MASSES is what will force everyone to own a computer like they own a phone. And which computer company seems to have all their iDucks in a row to exploit this new, largely untapped consumer market?
Three guesses and the first two don't count.
I saw an iMac bilboard this year in Jakarta. And G3s for sale in T'ai-pei complete with a selection of PDAs and Digital Cameras to compliment. iMacs are everywher in Japan, like Pokemon. Soon schoolchildren will collect all five colors and trade them with their friends.
Remember what Steve said about focusing on the consumer in Time. And why shouldn't he? The most successful companies in history have built their fortunes on the consumer not business. Perhaps AAPL was just a decade too early.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
The desktop wars are over and MS won game set and match. Steve wisley took the last chopper out of Saigon and let that one go. But, as is typically the case, the war's victors are continuing to train for the same kind of war rather than focusing on the future. Go ahead Wintel, stay the coarse. Windoze 2000 is your Maginot line.
COWs are stupid, immobil, passive creatures, which is why we EAT them. They're easy to outwit.
Focus in the consumer.
Plug and play. Firewire.
Simplicity. Reliabilty. Conectivity. OSX.
Flat panel studio display + Quicktime = Internet TV.
Gorillas live in Asia. Big ones.
I believe AAPL has seen the importance of the Asian market as it relates to consumers (about 500mil of 'em not including those pesky Reds- but they'll come around!) which is why they're commiting themselves so heavily here. While the anylists are focused on NT and Servers and IT markets they're missing the market to which these devices will become a slave to (What is a server without the consumer to log on to it?), the exact market AAPL is targeting. The fact that I saw 5 iMacs walk out the door of the store I was at today says volumes at where the future of tech is headed. To the consumer.
Read the reports- what do the anylists say about Asia? Can you say "Unexpected earnings suprise?"
DV editing is HUGE.
End of story- much to the displeasure of my wife I came home from the store with a G4 400Mhz and Studio Display for 256000yen (thats about 2400 in Yankee dollars). Eat your heart out.