The Webb Chronicles

Italy, a Virtually Untapped Market Ready for the Mac

- 2006.07.27

Today's Apple Computer has become a pop cultural phenomenon of incredible proportions. Brand names such as iPod and iMac are integral parts of our vocabulary and coveted possessions.

But is the Macintosh this well known around the world?

I recently traveled to Italy to visit family and rediscover the land I grew up in, but I also took the opportunity to see where the Mac falls in a European society.

Needless to say, I had expectations before I even set foot in Rome. Having grown up here, I distinctly recall seldom seeing any Apple product outside the US Department of Defense Schools (DoDS) system. In fact, the only Mac I ever saw outside an American base was a Apple IIGS belonging to a Italian family friend. This was, however, in the mid 90s, a time period in which Apple Computer's very existence was at stake.

But even my previous trip in 2003 yielded little results, although Italians are notorious late adopters of technology.

Upon arriving, and after sleeping off the effects of jet lag, I spend an afternoon in downtown Avellino, a decent sized city located about 40 minutes from Naples. IT shops where cropping up everywhere, each selling its own brand of PCs and generic peripherals. Not one of them carried any Macintosh software or hardware.

Electronics stores, however, where a different story. Here iPods were as common as in the States, at only slightly inflated prices (199 euros for a 2 GB iPod nano, which equals US$230). The iPod revolution, it seems, has hit here also.

But there was still no sign of the Macintosh.

I figured that a bigger city would yield better results, so while visiting Rome that weekend I kept an eye open for any Macintosh computers. Although I'm sure there must be some store in Rome with Macs for sale, I was unable to notice one.

I tried again in Florence, to no avail. Even Italian TV was lacking iPod and Mac commercials.

Has Apple given up on this market?

During this trip, I was asked by several people to look at their Windows machines. I would always bring with me my travel laptop; a 500 MHz snow white iBook. This normally turned heads, since very few have been seen here, but the most amazing thing was that people knew it was a Macintosh - so market recognition was present.

What further amazed me was the number of times people would say, "I should have got a Mac" or, when talking in reference to the Mac, they would say, "Yes, I hear very good things about it."

Why hasn't Apple taken advantage of this? There's an untapped population that is beginning to see the countless flaws in the Windows platform and would welcome an alternative.

ApplicandoFinally, in a train station in Tuscany, I found signs of Intelligent life - an Italian Mac magazine called Applicando. Not only was a sight for sore eyes, it also gave me insight on where Italians could buy Mac related items aside from the Internet. There where a handful of stores in all of Italy, and enthusiasts would drive hundreds of kilometers to go there.

So what is Apple waiting for? A little advertising and opening a few Apple Stores could start an Apple revolution in Italy beyond the influence of the iPod alone.

The choice is Apple's to make, but leaving a market like this untapped would be foolish. LEM

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