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Imagine getting in on the ground floor of what could be a significant technological revolution - an opportunity to change the way people look at and use technology. Sounds like a great opportunity, right? Any of us would take on such a challenge in a minute! But think again; this is no job for mere mortals.
Technology is a lot like politics - people go with what they know, fearing to tread on new ground. "My operating system, right or wrong" is the attitude many people have when it comes to trying something different. Just see what happens when you march into the boss's office and suggest that your organization replace its expensive Microsoft Office licenses with the free to download OpenOffice suite. OO does the same thing as MS Office - if not performing better than the Microsoft product - and it's a lot cheaper (as in free). Free vs. expensive - who wouldn't go for a deal like that? But don't be surprised when the boss turns you down cold. S/he'll agree with you that there's no logical reason not to make the jump - but still...
As tough as that battle is, it's much harder to convince people to abandon the hardware and operating system they've gotten used to using over the years. Logic doesn't always work in these cases either. Lots of PC users, for example, agree that Macs are easier and more fun to use, but they just can't see themselves switching - at least based on the straight facts. Moving between platforms, for many people, means taking a leap of faith. And if you need to make believers out of customers, you need to be out in the field, showing them why your "way" is better than the other's. In other words, you have to "missionize" - go from door-to-door, from heart-to-heart, selling people on why your system is superior - in the hope that that they will chuck their old ways and agree to take a chance on what you're offering. Like you would with an unknown political candidate.
In other words, you're not selling just a computer or an operating system - you're selling an "experience," a "digital lifestyle." If you have that kind of vision, then you really have a shot at moving minds and hearts - and convincing a hesitant public that they will be doing the smart thing, the right thing, by taking a chance on what might sound, to them, like a downright radical idea.
Fortunately for Apple and the Mac-loving public in Israel, the man now responsible for convincing Israel's almost solidly PC computer users to look at Macs as an alternative has just that vision.
It's all about promoting a digital lifestyle, says Eran Tor, general manager of iDigital (http://www.idigital.co.il). For Tor, it's a matter of bringing the choices to the public - once PC users see what they're missing in the Mac, they will without question make the switch.
"We see it as our job to reach out to PC users," he says, in order to educate them on Apple products - because, he adds, "once people see what Macs can do, they go for them - the system sells itself."
iDigital, run by, of all people, Chemi Peres (son of you know who) took over the Apple concession from Yeda Computers several months ago. Yeda was the authorized Israeli distributor for Apple products for 25 years, and its departure from the Mac scene has not been mourned by Mac users, to put it lightly. Yeda received, at best, mixed reviews from Mac owners on service, and the idea of the company putting on a public mass demonstration of Macs in Dizengoff Center, like iDigital did last week, was all but inconceivable.
But for Tor, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of iDigital, the show (in cooperation with the Handy computer store in the mall's lower level) was a matter of course. The company set up an Apple-store style display, with plenty of iMacs and Macbooks on display for people to play with. Along with the hardware were product demonstrations, training sessions and open discussions of Apple and Mac products - such as how to make movies using iLife's iMovie software (which you get free when you buy a Mac) or how to use iPhoto to maximize your digital photo collection.
"Part of our job is to reach out to the computing public, and the Dizengoff Center event was a resounding success," Tor says. "Over 2,000 people registered for follow-up information, and we plan on reaching out to each and every one to show them how a Mac can help them."
Tor expects to have to work at it - but the product does most of the selling. He's got the facts down pat: "Just show iLife to anyone, at almost any age and in almost any profession, and they immediately go for it," Tor says. "With an Intel-based Mac, you can have the best of both worlds, running Mac OS and Windows (with Parallels or Vmware virtualization software) on the same machine. And Leopard (the new Mac OS) is far superior to Vista."
But Tor knows that facts aren't always going to do the job. "The Dizengoff event was a template of many future events we are going to be running. We want people to see what we have to offer, to feel it. When they do, they will begin to understand that the Mac is their 'digital friend.' It won't happen overnight, and we realize that. But we want them to be to see the Mac as an alternative, one they might not have known about otherwise," he says.
Make no mistake - Tor is a businessman, and a good one, from what I know of him (he was until recently head of the Middle Eastern division of household products giant Reckitt Benckiser). But it takes a real businessman to know that sometimes it's not just about business - it's about vision. Part of that vision, Tor says, will be the setting up of US style-Apple Stores here in Israel, complete with Geniuses, training sessions and a whole range of Apple products not yet available here (like Apple TV). The first stores will likely be in Tel Aviv and open in the course of the coming year, but Tor wants to see stores all over the country.
"We want to give customers the same experience they would get in an Apple Store abroad, geared to local needs," he says.
If Tor does succeed in bring Israel firmly into the Apple "loop," there is no doubt sales will follow, as they have abroad - according to a slew of new polls (http://tinyurl.com/3xtzed), US consumers are moving to the Mac in droves. And I have no doubt that Tor knows what he is doing - the first thing he did in our interview was ask me "Do you use a Mac?" (the answer is yes).
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