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Mac in Japan 2007

The Apple store KitKut in Otsu City is now primarily an iPod outlet. They still sell and service Mac's exclusively, and their online presence reads like a Mac-geek paradise... But, for all intents and purposes, Apple=iPod for the spending generation in Japan.

Computers are now just an afterthought to young Japanese, like refrigerators and washing machines, something you buy when the old one breaks, or as a gift for your kids starting out in preschool.

But wait there is more... there are signs even this iPod market foothold is wavering.

Even my own daughter, who lives in a Mac centric environment, has now opted out of her iPod (perhaps frustrated by its continual battery short-comings) and now has a mobile phone with a built in MP3 player... and superior photographic capabilities.

Her DoCoMo (the mobile division of Japan's NTT) plan, covers all her demanding social tech needs... supplemented only by the larger memory storage and cheaper broadband of her iBook. Her iBook now works as back-up, storing her massive music collection and allowing for easy social networking via additional browsing and email. Her phone works fine all day as her key device, her iBook only comes into play when she kicks back at home.

The photographs from her mobile ('keitai' here in Japan) record her life and friendships, and the MP3 audio files put it all to rhythm, perpetually... from the moment she wakes up in the morning, with a tune on her lips, until she sings herself to sleep at night.

Whether Apple's iPhone can climb atop this new 'teeny-tiny paradigm' pyramid remains to be seen. Obviously Steve Jobs saw this coming and is trying to very quickly put the Apple label on this new 'Extreme' portability with 'Maximum' functionality keitai phnomenia.

Apple come-lately as 'phone maker' remains to be tested here in Asia. Tiny life-style symbols, in perpetual transition, is a tough market to dominate world-wide and the master land of itsy-bitsy is here.

Meanwhile the old stalwart market of Pro graphic and film producers are now sufficiently placated by the newest Adobe Creative Suite and Final Cut Pro (High Density friendly) releases for Apple OS on Intel dual core. With a few High Density peripheral devices like a more enhanced iTV, perhaps a multi-dual-core desktop configuration and/or Mac compatibility with the 'Red' camera, and you still have Apple 'staying-power' on the Pro level... for at least the time being.

iPhone is the big unknown for 2007...
and Asia will be the mother-of-all testing grounds for Apple.

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Mac in Japan 2006

I just got off the phone with .Mac Apple Japan. If you live in Japan, you get your billing information in Japanese, and if you are like me, and can't read Kanji, you'll need to find a rep who speaks English. This is possible, though it may take a while, and sometimes the best advice they have may be to just find a friend who is Japanese to help you. Generally in Japan, there just isn't enough of an English speaking customer base, nor available affordable bilingual employees, to make English service cost effective. At least that's the party line. At least Apple Japan tries to be Eigo friendly.

Now that 'backward compatibility' begins to fade, with an onslaught of new operative system X versions less and less friendly to 'Classic' OS, Apple no longer resembles her glorious past... especially to her legions of dedicated but aging diehards. If you are new to Apple this doesn't pertain to you, it is only us older geezers who lament the Microsofting of Apple as she adjusts to larger markets in new arena.

That said, the old Macintosh has evolved into a new hopefully longer lasting variant, kind-a-like a
Golden Delicious. Golden as a stock option, if you happened to be an investor who rode out Apple's low times and still have stocks, Delicious in stylistic innovation and fashion know-how.

Apple today is now an Intel with style... A processor wolf in sheep-skin guise. Not quite bad enough to lose her devoted disciples, and with more than enough market savvy to remain a contender. Apple may be on her way to eat more market share. Though one wonders if OS market share means all that much these days. To my college-age students, buying Apple simply means getting an iPod with a computer to match, but, in time, they may again see Apple fully dominating key computing turfs, like graphics, film, and CAD design as once was the case here... Possibly even retrenching in education and science. It all depends on how fast and how stable this new offensive turns out to be.

Like smelly cheese, Mac Users Groups in Japan have aged. There is less need, now that the internet provides shareware and advice 24/7, so the numbers are down, while age of the average member has gone up. In Japan my favorite club remains Kinki Mac Users Group, while Ringo Mug covers Kanto quite well, but if I were younger I might consider cruising the Linux groups, or focus on my keitai as social support.

Hanging among the cross-over 'switchers' and public access code folk is where the exuberance sparkles. The way Applees romance currently is as two teens (or retired widowers) sharing their Nano earphones in the back of a classroom. The days of shareware meets, software demos, and localized Mac events, as a place to find co-nerd love, is passe to modern iPoders.

IBM once manufactured the chips that made Mac click, now Intel has the contract. Apple will never again be the same,' Toto I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.' By the way, The word on the street is wait and see. The new boards do not hold much in new and lots in acclimation. Advice is 'hold off on any new purchases' while the software and upgrades catch up. It may be a great leap forward for some profound market strategy, back into the future at Disneyland Apple, but for the little guy with limited venture capital, I'd say wait at least into the fall of 2006, longer if you can, to buy your next new Mac.

To close, here is my disclosure. I love Disney, particularly the new 3-D animated Pixar and welcome the threesome (Apple/Disney/Pixar). Disney needs leadership and a greater sense of adventure. Just hope Jobs is not spreading himself too thin. Confession two, I still use GoLive to update this site. Finally, I confess I love the magic of discovery, made possible with LimeWire and lie when I say 'I care about copy rights and wrongs.'

Oh yes... Buy an iPod. They remain the greatest toy, a boy could buy, at any age and they have just become more affordable.

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