Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I'm old enough to remember the early days of computers--that is, the 1970's when computers began to get small enough to be considered personal. Computer folklore talks about the days when a couple of Steves--Wozniak and Jobs--built the first personal computer in a garage. They called it the Apple I, and as they say, the rest is history.

There was a precursor to the personal computer that took Japan by storm in the mid-1980's. It was the word processor, which the Japanese affectionately termed the wa-pro. These transportable devices rendered the 100 odd Japanese syllabic characters together with the several thousand combinations of Chinese characters they used, as easy to input as A-B-C. Such was the popularity of these convenient devices that they delayed the ascendance of the personal computer in Japan, thus putting the highly tech-saavy Japanese behind the curve in computer soft and hardware development with repercussions seen upto today.

Back in the USA, computers became all the rage in business during the 1980's which led to the ascendancy of Bill Gate's Microsoft operating system over the more user-friendly Apple system. Hundreds of companies emerged to join these tech-pioneers to supply computer hardware and software creating an American juggernaut of an industry that continues to dominate the world stage to this day.

Consistent with its wonderful success stories, the computer has combined with the Internet to become one of the most useful and ubiquitous tools ever crafted. The range of its possible uses crosses lines from industrial to business to personal, to serve the requirements of scientists, artists, politicians, and nearly every practioner of every art or craft.

...and so the story goes.

In the UAE

The UAE, particularly Dubai, presents a bustling market for PC commerce. It offers a strip of outlets, most selling items similar to one another, waging their battle along price lines. This benefits both the local consumer and visiting shoppers.

Therein, however, lies the problem. The effect of price being paramount, depresses merchant interest in offering variety or innovativation. For those who need the most common equipment at the lowest prices, this is a good market. For those who want anything new or cutting edge, niche or recently trendy, Dubai and even more so the rest of the UAE have little to offer.

Thus, despite its modern, trendy reputation, Dubai and the UAE are largely Apple-free zones--in contrast to Dubai's accumen at creating successful freezones.

Though Apple clearly offers a niche market product, it carries with it just the sort of brand image that modern Dubai, Inc. is being built on. It is, therefore, all the more perplexing that there is little on offer for those UAE residents and visitors who want it. It is a problem of both price and availability, as far as Apple products go.

Beyond the commercial front, the UAE is a thoroughly modern, tech-saavy society. Computers are to be found in schools and offices everywhere. It may not be the most ubiquitous modern consumer device--that honor goes to the mobile phone. But computers are clearly an important and increasingly common tool for everyday affairs in the UAE.

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