Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Apple should respect non-US iPad Customers

If a company with a large and enthusiastic International following (like Apple) begins to operate so ethnically, you would think that they don't appreciate the business of the rest of the world as much. I have started a facebook group entitled "Apple should respect non-US iPad Customers" to help others sound off on this iPad release dichotomy. I am also sending this link to Apple.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

Apple is one of the few computers in the world that is actually loved, yes loved, by its customers. There is this comradeship among mac users. When I bought my first mac in Greenville NC, I attended a Mac user group and couldn't help sensing the bonding that was both reminiscent of a religious fellowship and a closely-knit social club wrapped in one. Today, if you brandish your shiny aluminium in public, other Apple users would nod to you instinctively especially in parks, at beaches, on campuses and at airports. You can't believe the instant connection to this hive mind. It is real.

For a living, I write software on the Windows platform but there are 10 Apple devices in my home right this moment ranging from iPod classic through iPhone 3GS to Apple TV & MacBook Pros. Now that Apple laptops can dual-boot with Windows, I even take my mac to work, and in the midst of all the grey-scale official laptops around the conference table,  the aluminium flourish stands like the scene in "Legally Blond" when the lady in a pink suit steps into Harvard Law School amidst all the black and gray of the usual business suits.

As an Apple lover, I am just an Apple lover. So is my wife, so is my 16 year old daughter. We were living in the US and now live in Canada. Then and now, we were and are just simply Apple lovers. So, don't be surprised if I say that I loose sleep over the anxious expectation of the iPad. I may even have worked myself into a frenzy.

In one of my earlier posts, I reported that days after the iPad announcement, I sold my Sony eBook Reader. I really loved that Sony reader but I sold it for less than it was worth. And then, the wait for iPad began. First, I waited for end of March. Then, we learnt that it was releasing only to the US. Canada was to wait for end of April. To douse my feeling, I started downloading iPad apps in advance and reading every review. Once or twice, I had considered and given up driving 1200 km south to go buy one. I gave it up because Canada release date was just around the corner and I really now want the 3G model, since am not getting tethering post.

A few days ago when Apple announced the iPhone OS 4.0 sneak preview when I followed by a live blog, Steve Jobs still said, "International release of the iPad is coming late April".

So, you can imagine how just a few days later, Apple announced this move back by a whole month! If they has said, "We are having problem with local content developers in some countries", or international law or something like that ... if that was the problem, I would understand. It was so annoying that they said something like, "we are doing this because US buyers just want more than we thought they'd want. And we have more pre-orders for the US that we want to fill end of April. So, we'll just go ahead and do that and push International release to late May. How audacious!

The impression I get from this is that Apple treats the rest of the world as "Consumers of the Crumbs". They serve the main loaf to the US market, even offer seconds for anyone in the US who wasn't hungry the first time around. And then, if there are left-overs, offer that to the rest of the world. One early sign that a law is too arbitrary is that normally law-abiding people begin to go around it. Imagine how many people traveled to the US from the rest of the world to buy an iPad. Even till today, I believe that beyond the initial spike, the rest of the steady rise is attributable to international purchases. Is it a surprise that all the states that have sold the most iPads judging by Chikita real-time tracking are states on the borders with high-traffic international airports?

Apple should have shown respect to non-US customers by honoring the release date they were promised. It does not matter if they have products lasting a whole month at a go. But it would have gone a long way to dousing the  passion of early, unconditional adopters. Even those early adopters should be part of a smart marketing strategy. 

I have started a facebook group "Apple should respect non-US iPad Customers" so people can to and express their opinion on the matter. You are welcome to go there and sound off. I am sure Apple will hear because I am also sending the link to them.

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