Disclaimer: This article has been originally Posted on MyMac back in 31/3/2006 (Some information might be out of date).
Sitting in a local Starbucks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, surfing the web while downloading my favorite Podcast, a young man approaches me, apologizing for the interruption.
“Do you work with Apple?” He asked.
“No, why?!” I reply.
“Well I was watching you working on this Apple notebook, I assumed that you might be working with them.” He says.
“I am a Mac fan, but I don’t work for Apple.” I said smiling.
“I am planning to switch to a Mac machine, are their computers any good? Can I use it for everything?” He asks.
I would have been a millionaire by now if I got a dime for every time someone asks me such questions.
People in the Middle-East see Apple products as a commodity, and a high-status symbol; using a Mac in cafes is such a prestigious in your face type of public statement. The only problem is that Apple has done little to support all those switchers. New users simply don’t know if they can use Macs the same way they would use a normal PC, or they believe in myths like using a Mac would get them stranded on a lonely digital island by themselves. In this part of the world we have to depend on unofficial Mac user groups, mostly created by a bunch of friends who own Macs, to spread the awareness of using Apple computers.
One of the things Apple should really consider is launching a mid-east region iTunes Music Store, as almost everyone owns an iPod around here, but they only use them to rip audio CDs. If Apple launches an iTunes store here people will find it extremely cheep to buy songs, and Apple would reach two billion songs in no time.
“iPods simply sell out as soon as we put them on display, it takes us a day or two max, to sell all of them” Said an electronic store salesman to me once I asked about the availability of an iPod Shuffle, which was sold out on the second day they released it.
In Dubai, UAE you can find Apple products sold virtually in every mall or electronic store around. There is only one lonely Apple store, owned by an official Apple franchise dealer located in Ibn Battuta Mall. You can also find Apple products sold at all Virgin stores around the city, and they even designated sections in their stores exclusively to sell Macs and iPods (I personally consider those places as Mac shrines).
Last Christmas I visited Dubai working on a travel article, and while there I thought I might as well get my fiancÃ©e a new iPod nano, since her 20GB 4th Generation iPod died on her. I searched everywhere for one, but not a single one could be found, and every time I asked a store clerk they tell me that they are sold out, and not getting any units shipped till January 2006.
“The nano is so cute, people can’t help themselves but to buy one or two as a perfect Christmas gift” said one stores salesman.
Back in Saudi Arabia, more and more people are starting their switching to Macs over PCs, and enjoy the process of doing so. “How can such a great solid operating system be out there without being noticed by the public” Said a switching friend to me once “I have wasted my time using PCs, I wish people can see this fact like I did.”
The Mac community is growing day after day in Saudi Arabia and the middle-east region. Some people get interested in Apple computers after seeing a Mac machine in action in-front of their own eyes, but most people get hooked up simply by using iPods, which proves that the halo effect does exist.
I know a lot of people who have recently switched to the Mac platform, and bought their second Mac machines to use in their homes. In most cases they would buy a Mac mini as a second system, to store their entire music library on and share it over Airport.
“Is this a full computer?” asked a friend when we laid our eyes for the first time on the Mac mini.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know why people still buy BUBs.” I said wondering.
(BUBs: Big Ugly Box).
Â© 2006 Mazen Al-Angary