International people are those who travel a lot, or live between two different countries. This tends to happen a lot in Europe, and is just generally more and more common with the cheap price of travel these days. Indeed there were over 800m international tourist arrivals in 2006 – clearly not a trivial market.
Steve Jobs clearly doesn’t get out much, and the reason I say that is that Apple and Apple products are generally lousy at dealing with us international folk. Let’s examine why:
First, those DVD regions. Apple uses DVD drives that are impossible to unlock – you get 5 shots at changing the region and that’s it. Many of those drives have extra securty that stos you ripping DVD’s. Hence the DVD drives in all of my macs are essentially useless, as I have DVD’s from pretty much every region. I can’t rip them, so I put those DVD’s into folders so I don’t carry around plastic cases, which means I am equally clueless which region each DVD is from. If I can buy a $50 DVD player that can play anything, I’d expect my $4000 macbook pro to do the same. It doesn’t. Yes- I need to rip all my DVD’s for once and for all.
Secondly, the iPhone is tied to local providers. There is clearly huge demand for unlocked iPhones, something which any European could tell you as their market has been open for years. Instead Apple locked the iPhone to particular local providers, as Apple get significant revenue from them.
Next – the international roaming costs are prohibitively exensive – for making and receiving calls, for my foreign friends calling a NZ number from the USA when I am down the street and most of all, for data. At the moment international roaming (for data) is not viable on the iPhone, which renders it pretty pointless for global travellers.
Finally, Apple has split their company into country-based entities. While I think it is great that NZ finally gets Apple swag (except for the iPhone) at a similar time and price to the USA, I feel they Apple has a way to go towards treating customers as people, not as people with countries. Witness my email inbox from Apple from the last day:
4 identical emails about the MacBook Air – one from Apple-USA, 2 from Apple-Asia and one from Apple-Europe. As someone that has used online Apple stores and iTunes in several locations, I am getting US, Australia, NZ and UK/South Africa directed emails.
Those emails went to three different email addresses.
I’ve had to use those different email addresses for my Apple dealings as each email address defaults to a particular country, and you cannot easily move countries. That’s really painful, as I’d love to buy things from, say, the Apple USA iTunes store that are not available in NZ, and I also want to buy things from the Australian store using my NZ credit card. I can kludge my way through the second, but the only way to buy from iTunes USA is to have a US-based credit card, or to pick up those iTunes gift cards next time you are in a USA Apple store.
So – what should Apple do for us internationals?
2: Offer the iPhone at two prices (as in Germany) – one tied to a carrier and one completely unlocked. Let us vote with our wallets, and support us if we want to roam the world swapping sim cards as we go.
3: Use your market power to demand reasonable data and voice roaming prices for your customers. If not then make it easy to use one of the third party solutions that are out there, or, again, just unlock that iPhones so that we can swap sim cards.
4: Move to being one firm, with single Apple and iTunes stores. The iTunes UK debacle should be a lesson that splitting by country is a thing of the past. Get global licenses for media as a matter of course. Be like Amazon – let me order from anywhere, use a credit card from anywhere and deliver to anywhere. Again like Amazon, be clever about where you deliver from, depending upon where I want the goods.
5: Above all, please keep making those fantastic products, and keep releasing them simultaneously across the world.