Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Apple Struggles to Win Fans in China

Yang Weiguo, a 20-year-old university student in Beijing, is a committed Apple (AAPL) fan. Given the American company's limited presence in China, that's no small achievement. In April, for instance, Yang bought a new Macbook through MacX.cn, a fan site for Mac users in China that operates an online store unaffiliated with the company. The online store had someone buy a computer for Yang in Hong Kong and courier it up to Beijing, saving him $293, or roughly 17%, on his Macbook purchase. 

So when Yang, who is spending his summer as a volunteer for the Olympics next month, found out through the Mac community that Apple would open its first store in China on July 19, he knew he had to be there from the beginning. He arrived at the shop, located in a swank shopping mall in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, 22 hours before it was scheduled to open. He was among more than 100 others who camped overnight -- even though he already had his Macbook and wasn't interested in a new iPod. "I don't have anything I need to buy," he says. Still, because he wanted to be there, Yang spent $26 for an adapter cable he could have easily purchased elsewhere. 

Smuggling Challenge Apple executives want to make it easier to convert more people like Yang from the cult of Mao to the cult of Mac. Apple plans to open a second store in Beijing in 2009 and another in Shanghai later. "We expect to be successful here in China because the entire economy is growing," says Ron Johnson, Apple's senior vice-president for retail.

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