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Israeli Mac Enthusiast's Take on Middle East Mac Market

Wednesday, February 14, 200l
By Senior Editor John H. Farr

This is actually in the form of an "open letter" to Steve Jobs from an Israeli citizen now living in Montreal (Quebec). We think it raises some points of concern and hope the message gets through. Herewith the full text of the email we have just received:

"Dear Mr. Jobs:

I'm writing to you as an avid Mac user since the Mac Plus. I'm writing to you as a fan who really appreciates what you did for Apple since you returned to the company.

I'm also writing to you as an Israeli.

Israel is one of the most advanced countries in the world in the field of high-tech. Many people in the industry consider it to be second only to the American Silicon Valley. Israel has one of the highest number of high tech start-up companies per capita. Scitex, Checkpoint, Mirabilis (icq) and VocalTech (iPhone) are only a few examples of Israeli companies which have enjoyed world-wide success after breaking into the international market.

Intel and Microsoft are aware of this. They know that they can find excellent engineers in Israel. Products like the Pentium and the MMX were developed largely by Intel Israel. Intel will also develop all the chips needed for the next generation of laptop computers in Israel. Microsoft's biggest R&D offices, outside of Redmond, are located in Haifa, Israel.

Unfortunately, Apple neglects the Israeli market.

I used to work as a system manager of several large networks (500 plus users) on operating systems such as OpenVMS and Windows NT. I think that the MacOS is superior in some ways to both of them, and with MacOS X Apple will finally have a real modern OS on every desktop. This is great, and can change the market as we know it (the Mac market in Israel is shrinking all the time, unfortunately).

Here are the problems that Apple is facing in the Israeli market:

1. Internet &endash; The Internet was great for Apple. The net is open to both Mac and PC users, and helped bring PC users to the Mac platform. On the Israeli Mac market, however, the opposite happened. There is no web browser that supports the Hebrew language. Netscape Navigator is much better then MSIE in that regard, but there are still too many Hebrew web sites that the Israeli Mac user just can't read. Israeli Mac users give up on their Macs and switch to PCs because they can't read Hebrew text on so many Hebrew web sites. Part of the problem is that there are several different ways to view Hebrew text on the web. The PC version of MSIE supports all of them.

Another problem &endash; the recent MRJ versions from Apple won't work with Hebrew script. They did work, up to version 2.14, and I'm sure that Apple can fix this problem for the later versions as well &endash; if they only put their minds to it.

2. Education - for many years Apple was very strong in Israeli universities; you can see many Macs on college campuses. These Macs are rapidly being replaced by PCs. The main reason is the lack of a Hebrew Office package for the Mac. I know that MS won't help by making a Hebrew enabled version of MS Office 2001, although Apple (Via Yeda &endash; the local Apple rep in Israel) was willing to pay for it. They won't do this because they want to dominate the entire Israeli market with their OS. Everyone in Israel uses the PC version of Office. I get PC Office documents (Word, Excel), via email, almost daily &endash; I'm forced to use VirtualPC just to view them. More and more institutes of higher education are giving up on the Mac for this reason. I firmly believe that Apple should write a Hebrew enabled version of AppleWorks that can import/export Hebrew docs from/to the PC version of MS Office (with MS agreement).

3. Graphics design/Multimedia/3D &endash; This market was always Apple's strongest. For years, all big design companies in Israel used only Macs. Today more and more are switching to PCs. The pro design people need to work with text as well as with visuals. They need to work with that PC Hebrew Word file which they received from a colleague or customer. It's also a nightmare to use Hebrew with programs such as Photoshop, Freehand and the like, because of the lack of good Hebrew support. This is a problem that can be addressed, in my humble opinion, on the MacOS level.

4. PR - I travel on business. I lived in the Ivory Coast for over a year, and in that African third world country, the Mac and Apple's "Think Different" campaign was more visible than in Israel: big signs on the streets and posters in stores advertised the Mac everywhere. I've seen the big Mac campaign in Europe as well. I now live in Montreal and, of cause, there's no way to compare. Yeda just doesn't advertise in Israel. Period. The "think different" campaign, the iMac revolution, the G4… If you're not a Mac fan, you didn't hear about any of these in Israel. Nothing in the major newspapers, no signs in the streets, and of course, nothing on television. A real shame.

I'm writing to you because I care. I'm really concerned about the fate of Apple in Israel. If Apple doesn't do something to save the Israeli Mac market &endash; perhaps even replace Yeda as its representative (since there are so many complaints about their service and support) -- then its market niche in Israel will just disappear. That will be a sad day, for Apple and for its users and supporters.

Thank you for taking the time to read my comments. I look forward to hearing from you.


Lior Ben-Ami