If you read any other China Blogs, you’re probably already aware of the Green Dam and Youth Escrot software the Chinese government is now requiring be provided with all new PC purchases in the country. Everyone reads ChinaSMACK, so you know that Chinese people are generally less than thrilled. You might also be aware that the software is set to block some rather odd terms in addition to those you might expect. And of course, you will have guessed on your own even if you didn’t read it in the New York Times: the software itself is crap. From Imagethief:
Green Dam + Youth Escort is a poorly designed rip-off of a foreign nanny-ware product, is unstable, and is riddled with security holes. It is, in short, crapware.
The Times reports the program is “so technically flawed that outsiders can easily infiltrate a user’s machine to monitor Internet activity, steal personal data or plant destructive viruses.”
The sexy manga renderings of Chinese netizens aside (and by “aside”, I mean I’ll be placing Green Dam Girl pictures throughout the rest of this post, thanks Danwei) I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t going to lead a fair number of Chinese computer consumers to consider something the probably hadn’t before: buying a Mac.
Now, before I even begin this, I need to note a couple things for the record. One, I am not in any way an expert on the computer industry, or economics, or anything like that, so this post is pretty much pure speculation. Two, I am myself a Mac user, and one of my best friends works for Apple, so I’m not exactly impartial, which is why this is going to be tagged as an opinion piece.
Anyway, there are a couple reasons why Green Dam might, eventually lead people who hadn’t thought about Apple before to dust off their wallets. First, and most immediately, there are going to be some people who just don’t want this software on their computer. Chinese techies are going to be aware that it’s crap, and will want to avoid it (although they’re also going to be aware of other, cheaper alternatives like Linux), and Chinese dissidents and porn-lovers are going to be interested in any computer that allows them access to a less-censored internet. Since no one really uses Macs in China, I suspect they won’t be required to come pre-installed with Green Dam even if versions of the software are available for Mac, which I highly doubt.
In the longer term, there’s also the potential that people who are tired of their computer being riddled with viruses because of Green Dam’s porous security code might turn to Apple for asylum. I know the feeling, having done so myself after years of PC use finally drove me to Apple’s website five years ago.
Of course, there are also several reasons this won’t happen. First, and most chief among them is the price barrier. Apples are expensive even in the States; in China they seem exorbitant. It’s unlikely Apple will lower their prices for China, so if Apples are going to sell they will need a shrewd marketing campaign. Their American marketing has proved that they’re up to this challenge, but whether or not they will actually bother in China is another story entirely. Plenty of Chinese people buy cars, so it’s certainly possible they could afford to buy Macs if they saw them as a long-term investment (and also, like cars, a status symbol?). But for that to happen, Apple needs to get serious about the Chinese market now and start letting people know what they do and why, exactly, you should pay so much more for a Mac than you’re paying now for PCs.
There are some other obvious issues going against Apple. For one, were Macs to become more popular in China, the Green Dam software would inevitably sooner or later be foisted onto Apples as well, making it less appealing to switch. Furthermore, plenty of programs Chinese people expect to be able to use don’t currently work with Apple. Pirated software is much less readily available for the Mac platform, while pirated PC software is cheap and extremely widespread.
It’s also very possible that Apple simply just doesn’t care about the Chinese market. Foolish as that might seem, their half-assed, way-too-late introduction of the iPhone seems to indicate they may be willing to forgo whatever potential profits they might see, perhaps because they fear losing out to various forms of piracy. They may well be on to something. Microsoft has been unable, despite repeated efforts, to get the Chinese market to adopt Windows legally instead of using the many cracked versions available for 6 RMB (less than $1) in local DVD shops. Their gaming console, the XBox 360, isn’t even available legally in China, and their new search engine Bing hasn’t really caught on, either (has it anywhere?). Perhaps Apple is wise to just avoid China altogether. After all, it’s not like they’re doing badly right now anyway.
But like I said, I know nothing about this stuff, this is all just pure speculation mixed with the feeling that you might know about something that comes from reading lots of news. So I’ll leave it to Green Dam Girl, with Grass Mud Horse in tow, to pose the final and most important question:
What do you think? Is there really an opening for Apple in China’s market? Would Chinese people ever adopt the more-expensive Apple hardware?