Will Asia Buy Into iPad?


I miss the jungle. Last year I spent an epic night in the wilderness of Cambodia, with nothing but a netted hammock to protect me from the elements. It was an experience I still fondly recall, in part because for once I wasn’t wrapped in that other net– the World Wide Web.

But when it comes to the ‘real world’, it’s often impossible to escape it all, and so today, like so many others, I’ve gotten completely caught up in the details of the biggest net hype of the moment–the unveiling of Apple’s sleek latest offering: the iPad.

Apple has had some amazing success, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, this past year. It was just reported in the Wall Street Journal for instance, that the company’s first-quarter profit has jumped 50 per cent on the back of a boost in iPhone sales over the winter holiday season. And it was Japan that saw a whopping 400 percent increase of per unit sales-with a total 500 percent hike in the APAC region.

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So much for Wired magazine’s widely circulated piece (‘Why the Japanese Hate the iPhone’) that ran last February claiming iPhones were failing miserably in Japan. (The article was since modified with an editor’s note that states: ‘We agree with some of the criticism and have updated and corrected parts of the story in response.’)

But what about its increasingly consumerist neighbour, China? What kind of market does the Asian heavyweight present for Apple Inc.? Well, according to a recent article in InformationWeek quoting Apple COO Timothy Cook, increasing its clout in China is now a ‘major focus’ for the company. Another piece in Tuaw, ‘The Unofficial Apple Weblog,’ concurs, reporting that with only 200,000 iPhones activated in China last year, the device still lags far ‘behind the pack.’ But Cook on Monday announced a new strategic approach for the Chinese market that includes more affordable devices with emphasis on brand quality.

Personally, I remain optimistic when it comes to the iPad. As an Asia-based owner of several publishing ventures in the region told me today:

‘It is possible that the iPad could provide a solution to the print-Web conundrum, just as the iPod did for the CD-Napster problem.’

But he added he’s also reminded of the Kindle, another somewhat similar device, which could hardly be seen as having made a major breakthrough anywhere in the world. ‘I have never actually seen anybody using one. When we see every second person on the train into work pulling out an iPad or e-reader, then we’ll know it’s here to stay,’ he said.

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