This was an interesting post from an MS employee in the Macintosh Business Unit and her experience with being a Mac user in Microsoft. In some ways, I can understand her situation since I am a former mac Zealot myself having owned the following in the last few years: Apple //e, Mac 128k, Mac SE, Powerbook 160, Powerbook 5200, Powerbook Wallstreet, Powerbook Lombard, Powerbook Wallstreet, iBook (grey), iBook white 500 mhz. I also own 4 iPods: 1 Gen, 2nd Gen and two 4th gen as well as a shuffle and a Nano. My first job ever was working for Ziff Davis's MacWeek which was a trade publication for Enterprise Mac Users (remember them?)

Apple lost me when they went to OSX and none of my legacy machines could run the new OS fast enough. At about the same time, Window XP seemed to be user friendly and a much better library of games than the Mac ever had. I've been a PC user since and have never really tried or used OSX since.

Now that BootCamp on the Macs can run XP, the desire to get a Mac Book is lusting up again in me. Apple machines like their Ipods are gems of industrial design even though their support and service record is a bit lacking.

Here in the MS Beijing office, the designers next to me have 3-4 new MacBooks for designing the next generation UI for mobile devices. There is even an internal Mac Development team here working on improving some of the back end features for remote access for macs.

Macs in China however are quite expensive and stylish accessories for only the well off few. Whereas macs are common among students and the bohemain set in the US, the mark up for macs and accessories here is quite high vs the US retail stores...sometimes 50% more than those sold in the US. Although there are many stores here that look like Apple experience store, they are just authorized dealers that have tried to duplicate the look of the US Apple stores with much higher prices and no geniuses in the store. Most of the Apple sales in China have more to do with Ipods and Nanos rather than computers or laptops anyway.

Most students here purchase WIndows DIY desktops or some of the many brands of cheap generic laptops which are more expensive in China as well but not more so than macs, The secondary market for all laptops is quite strong since many people run older pirated versions of Windows on their personal machines anyway. Finding a legitimate copy of Mac OSX is a quest in itself for the die hard China Apple user. Many in the film and creative fields in Beijing prefer to use Macs perhaps for the cachet and status of owning a mac even though many of their tasks and functions can be done on Windows based machines anyway. China is fast adopting the language of western (and some say Japanese) style and fashion and the embrace of good industrial design in everyday products is part of that trend.

Apple has done a great job of branding and marketing the Ipod in China as it has all around the globe. We have ads on bus shelters, busses and on big billboards. The white earphone dancing icon is as well known here as it is in the US....sometimes even co-opted for local ads as well.

Back when I was part of what was once called the Home Entertainment Division of MS, we were the organization that housed and supported the Macintosh Business Unit. I met several of their PMs and found them to be a quite energetic and profitable group that more or less were self sufficient. They made money and they were left alone.

A few years back when I was doing a TechFest demo for a new UI, one MS employee came up to me during my presentation when I was by myself in the booth and spent some time to give me some sincere and great feedback/suggestions on improving my MSRA UI interface product before I realized that she was Roz Ho, the General Manager for the MBU. That commttiment to making a great product, even if its not in her group, made a big impression on me.

I would compare the MBU to the US Marines Corp within MS: the few, the proud the Macintosh Business Unit and the posting of what its like to be a member of that unit in MS is not too far off the mark. You can imagine then the stares we give the Mac guys here in Beijing when we see their shiny new metallic skinned machines in an ocean of black charcoal plastic Dell desktops.

 

-Frank Yu