Xu Xiaomin

Apple of discord between old and young

By Xu Xiaomin (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-24 06:46
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Long queues are not a feature of Shanghai's Expo Garden alone. Just a few days ago one was seen in Pudong's Lujiazui financial area. Thousands of people, most of them young, waited in a hundreds of meters long queue in front of a new Apple store, the first in Shanghai.

The Apple store was to open on July 10. But the people had gathered there several days before. An excited fan, who held the No 1 card in the queue, said he had come all the way from Jilin province in Northeast China. He had reached Shanghai on July 6 and had been sleeping in a tent and would finally realize his dream of buying Apple.

He is not the only one to suffer from "Apple fever". Photographs show more than 100 young people waiting in the queue overnight, killing time on their Apple laptops or iPads, which are not yet available in the local market.

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Travel back 13 years when no one would have thought the dying Apple company would bask in the glory it does today. When Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, returned to take charge of the company, the price of Apple shares had fallen to as low as $7.25, one-third of Microsoft's at that time. Bill Gates had even told the media that he thought Jobs was doing something that was bound to end in failure. But today, Apple has become the most valuable IT company in the world. Jobs didn't fail. On the contrary, he has become an idol.

Jobs found the answer to how to make money in the new era: conquer the hearts of young consumers. But how could he make them shop without thinking? The answer is simple: fashion. Cool and entertaining, that's what the youth want. Whether a product is hi-tech or not is not the most important factor anymore. It should look pretty and different, in other words cool.

Horizon China, a research institute, has found that fresh graduates and students are two groups that long for fashion products the most. Businesspeople should realize the concept of "good-quality products sell themselves" is out of date. If you want to make profit, you better make the consumers feel that your products are cool.

Apple is a good example. No wonder the "magic and revolution" in iPad and iPhone are in their looks and not necessarily in their technology. The iPad boasts a 9.7-inch multi-touch screen and the fourth-generation iPhone proudly claims to be the thinnest smart phone on the planet. They show that the era of checking IT products' technical parameters before buying is gone.

For people born in the 1950s, price maybe the most important factor when they shop. While the 1970s generation cares for price and quality both. But the new generation shops by instinct: I can't be as successful as Jobs, but at least I can use the same product as Jobs uses - we are from the same group.

The younger generation, after growing up and getting bored with Barbie and Superman, has found its new toys: cool IT products. Mobile phones should have ice cream colors and fantastic music. Music players sell if they have a mirror on the cover that could help a girl put on lipstick while enjoying music.

The elder generation, which found the market change almost overnight, has been left wondering if it is out of date. Even the fashion queen Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City hands an iPhone back when she needs a mobile phone and saying: "I can't work this!"

Instead of confessing that it is out of date, the older generation complains that young people are wasting too much money on "unnecessary" products.

But if someone has money he has the right to spend on anything he chooses to. When a society develops to a certain degree and has enough of certain products, people are likely to buy them even if they do so out of intangible feeling.

No more complaints, please. If you are not as smart as Newton, you either eat an apple or use it to make a call.


(China Daily 07/24/2010 page5)