Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Challenges ahead for the iPod & iPhone in the China Market

In college it seemed like that I was the only one without an iPod. Everyone had one. Not only did consumers in the US embrace the iPod, Shuffle, Nano, ect., they also bought up the Powerbook laptops, G4s and now.. iPhones. Everyone.

In China, its a different story. Apple has very little presence here. Although all of its products are manufactured in the factories in Guangdong province and Shenzhen, no one actually has them here. When I have my iPod out on the subway or bus, everyone stares at it. They've never seen it.

What Chinese people have seen are the generic iPods. Since everything is produced here, there are hundreds of small factories and software houses that have copied all of Apple's products. These generic mp3s, and mp4s (with color video capability) have been out on the market for many years. It's possible to get these wholesale for less than $10... and Chinese people have been buying them. Apple and its products have little, if any presence here.

Well, i guess Apple is attempting to change that. In recent months, there has been a significant and growing presence of Apple marketing. Not only are they opening more specialty shops in the most glamorous malls, but they are also putting up ad campaigns on the street.

2 days ago, I also (finally) saw an iPod commercial on Chinese TV. It was the same exact one that Steve Jobs showed off at this year's Apple convention (where he introduced the iPhone)... instead it had Chinese subtitles on the bottom. Good start.

We'll see how the Chinese market develops for Apple and its wide range of products. It's success here is far from certain, however, as many people have discussed the issues of it. A great post on Silicon Hutong called "The iPhone is not for China" has already described a hard market for Apple to tap into. This is probably why a Chinese company has already made an alternative to the iPhone. Only time will tell.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Chinese College Entrance Examination - 高考

June 7,8,9.

Every year, these 3 dates are the most important dates for millions of Chinese students (and their families and friends) taking the annual Chinese College Entrance Exam.

The Contra Costal Times has a great article titled "College exam impacts all of China" that accurately describes the test process that influences soo many people each and every year.

College admissions in China is strictly based on the score from the test.

Unlike the U.S., where standardized test scores are just one factor weighed by universities, how Chinese students do on the "gaokao" determines everything. Students list their top three schools and their major and hope their score is high enough to win a place.

Extracurricular activities do not count, and neither do high school grades. And forget writing about volunteer work; there are no essays to persuade admissions officers.

Every student is tested in 5 different areas. Each student is required to take the Chinese, English and Calculus test. The final 2 areas are different depending on the student pursuing a Bachelor's of Arts or a Bachelor's of Science degrees. They take History and Social Studies versus Physics and Chemistry, respectively.

Each test is scored on a scale of 150 points for a maximum possible of 750 points. Each university has a low cut off point. The top universities like 北京大学 choose first and pick the best students. Students with more than 600 points are considered. Those who were not chosen are then available for the next schools. This process goes on until all of the spots in every university are filled.

This process is accurate for the vast majority of students in China. A few percent of students go to school in other ways. These might include going to a specialized school where the student was recruited. Just as schools in the US recruit for sports, Chinese schools recruit for sports, as well as other areas of study.

Chinese gaokao has been such a important thing that kids are tutored and nurchered at a young age, to be ready for it. College exam impacts all of China describes a mother waiting for her daughter to finish the test.

Li Yukun gripped a bouquet of pink roses, a gift for her 18-year-old daughter who has been tutored every weekend since middle school.

"These 12 years have been so hard. These roses are to show her that I care, it's been so hard for her, not one day of rest," the mother said.

Due to the importance of the test, high school in China has also become a "breeding ground" and very different than its US counterpart. The typical Chinese high school lasts 3 years. In the first 2 years of high school, a student takes all of the classes as a normal US high school student with new material. In the 3rd year (senior year), high school transforms from a place of learning to a place of preperation. Instead of learning new material, the entire year is used to review and focus on the old material (in order to be ready for the entrance exam). Students prepare with extensive study sessions, mock tests and outside tutors.

Years of study, hope, investment and hard work all comes down to the exam. Make or break. Win or go home.

June 7,8,9.