Apple is kicking all kinds of ass here in Japan. The latest thing is the new iBook.
Unlike the old iBook which looked like a toilet lid and weighed a ton this one is only 5 lbs, looks decent and it's CHEAP!!! The cheapest one is $1300 with 64meg and a CD−ROM, Built in ethernet, built in firewire, built in modem. $1500 with a 128meg and DVD drive. That's a kick ass price. 😮
But more than that Apple has been able to keep their image strong in Japan. It's actually a little sad that so many people are still snowed by Apple's past success. Tell any Japan person you do computer graphics and they will assume you must be using an Apple. Of course I'd argue more serious graphic artists use a PC. Why? Because (1) they saved money getting a no−name PC so they could afford the software the needed and (2) because there's more graphics software on the PC than the Mac. Especially when it comes to 3D (3DS Max, Shade, Maya, Softimage, etc).
Okay, I guess that was off topic. Anyway, Here in Japan Apple has been going to crazy extremes to keep their image up. For example in Shibuya just outside the station there is a giant 5 story Tsutaya, the blockbluster video chain of Japan except that Tsutaya, unlike Blockbuster, actually has a descent selection. Anyway, The first floor is all videos/DVDs for sale and half the videos being promoted were being displayed on the awesome 22 inch Apple Cinema Display running on G4 Cubes and the other half were running on the gorgeous Apple Titanium Powerbook. It was very impressive and as the designs are actually pretty cool it seemed to be a positive thing (In other words I suspect it helped sell DVDs where as if they had used Dell machines or Toshiba machines it would have hurt DVD sales since those designs are so ugly)
As another example in the HMV in Shibuya, a 5 story very popular music store, about 2/3rds of the CD players (most of the stores here seem to use the Nakamichi 3 CD players) have been replaced by iMacs running iTunes (playing MP3s of the music). This set up is not as ideal. iTunes is pretty cool. The visualizations are at least better than most of the Windows Media Player ones though maybe not as good as Sonique's. The problem is it requires a mouse to use where as the old Nakamichi CD players are push button. In the other store with the DVD playing Macs the DVDs are set to repeat and the mice are not to be seens so there's no confusion. But, it looks pretty impressing to see 40 or 50 iMacs per store floor showing off their flashy graphics.
The Virgin Megastore, and also Tower Records in Shinjuku are also using them but not nearly as many. I did notice that they all changed at Tsutaya recently to Toshiba DVD boom boxes. I've also seen lots of places using the 17 inch LCD Apple displays too.
So the question is, why does it seem like all the other PC companies are sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to design. Sony is arguably a distant 2nd to Apple and yet they are also far far ahead of all the rest of the companies. It's like if you were to give them a rating by design on a scale of 1 to 10 apple would get a 9 or 10, Sony would get maybe a 5 or 6 and everybody else would get a 1 or 2. Apple is clearly getting descent sales and I know that for at least alot of my friends, design is important. Given to resonably good product the product with the neater design will usually win over the product with slightly more features.
Note: the only reason I wouldn't give Apple a 10 is (1) because the iBook looks like a toilet lid and (2) the Cube, although a kind of cool concept, looks EXACTLY like a tisue dispenser (in fact if you do a search for "apple cube tissue" you'll see that nearly every review calls it a tissue box. What were they thinking? And then of course there's the new colors of the new iMacs.
Also, as a side I wonder how much of this display of technology is manufacture driven or store driven. What I mean by that is often even seemingly fairly small stores have 40 inch plasma displays running ads for stuff in the store or music videos or movies. Those displaies are EXPENSIVE. $10K and up. So, the question is who bought the display? Did the store buy it? Did the manufacture (Toshiba, NEC, Panasonic) give it to the store to promote their stuff or did some third party, like the movie distribution company, buy it for the store. Just curious.