Why is Macworld Tokyo such a big deal? Because Japan is Apple’s second biggest market in the world. And our favorite computing platform is still very popular in this country (hey, there are about a dozen Mac magazines), according to Garr Reynolds, president of Kinki Mac Users Group.
“About six to ten years ago, the Mac was really huge here because it did such a better job with Kanji (the Chinese character used in Japanese writing),” he said. “Even today the Mac does a better job with fonts and DTP people swear by their Macs.”
Macs are also big with “creative content types” like designers and artists — and Japan is full of such folks, Reynolds added. The stereotype is of the boring, PC-using, group-thinker salary man. While there are many who fit that stereotype, there’s also a large population of folks to whom “think different” rings true, Reynolds said.
However, during the Windows 95 craze of ’95-’97 (when the Mac was at its nadir), Apple took a big hit. Once Japanese consumers start moving in a direction, it’s hard to turn the boat around, Reynolds said. Many people were buying PCs because “everyone else was,” he added.
“In 1998-2000, it was the return of Steve Jobs and COOL that saw big gains here,” Reynolds said. “The iMac was a smash success in a country that embraces ‘Hello Kitty’ and other things ‘cute.’ The G3s/G4s were a big hit again with the design people. For a while there — in, I think ’99, Apple was something like 20-25 percent of total PC sales per quarter though that has fallen off recently. In design, Web development, etc., Apple still rocks! In short, Apple is hot in Japan, though it suffers the same ol’ Wintel pressures as the U.S. The market share is higher than in the U.S., though offhand I do not know what it is.”
He feels that there’s still a big opportunity for Macs in the education market. Most schools don’t have lots of computers, according to Reynolds.
“But this is changing fast,” he said. “Apple MUST get a concrete education strategy and sales initiative and articulate the message like there is no tomorrow.”
Reynolds said that Apple desperately needs a sub-notebook for the Japanese market though the Titanium PowerBook G4 may satisfy a lot of people.
“In Japan we take trains — crowded ones — and an 11-inch version of the TiPB would be sweet,” he said. “But I know there is a limit to what Apple (a relatively small company) can do, and I do not expect one to be announced. It would be popular in Japan, but perhaps not really anywhere else. And Apple cannot really afford to confuse the consumer with a myriad of offerings. The TiPB will be a huge hit here — a home run for sure.”