Yesterday Apple Computer announced two new products at the San Francisco MacWord show.
When I lived in Japan, I noticed that next to Sony consumer products, Apple has had a pretty respectable share of the consumer youth market in Japan.
This last year, in 2004, when I did my homestay in Kobe, I had brought my brand new 15GB iPod (at the time) with me as a way to kill the boredom of the long train commutes. The distinctive white remote and earbuds of the iPod always seemed to catch peoples attention.
Over the months of my homestay, I began to see more and more of those white iPod earbuds on Japanese commuters during my train ride. The new owners ranged from the junior high school age to even young salarymen. When the iPod mini was announced, even smaller than the standard iPod, you couldn't get in a train car without seeing at least one set of iPod ear buds (not including me of course).
The clean aesthetic design of Apple products, as well as the extreme portability of the iPod product line, seem to go over really big with Japanese electronics consumers.
If you look at the small size of the iPod shuffle and Mac mini as well as the really clean and simple designs, they fit the Japanese market to a T.
The price point is another consideration: With a $99 dollar iPod shuffle, that's going to put it around 10,000 yen in Japan; pocket change for the affluent Japanese youth market.
I can see young Japanese consumers buying three or four iPod shuffles and customizing them in the same ways that they do to their keitai, cell phones, as a means of personalization in Japan over the last few years.
The lanyard that is included with the iPod shuffle is another stylistic choice that almost seems included specifically for the Japanese market. Cellphones seen hanging from lanyards in Japan are ubiquitous.
Check out this website in Japan that sells lanyards and straps for keitai to see what I mean. It wouldn't take much to start attaching these to an iPod Shuffle.
Going out on a limb here, but I think that both the iPod shuffle and Mac Mini are going to be really 'big in Japan'.
Here is the Apple Japan website.
Watch the MacWorld keynote here.
Note that all images are copyright Apple Computer.