'India wasn't the apple of Steve Jobs' eyes

By now you’ve seen adulation, semi-biographical tributes and lavish praise being heaped upon Steve Jobs. Here’s one that covers nearly everything he’s ever done. But as the dust of applause settles, it’s worth looking at the hard facts about how Apple was run by Steve Jobs, and more specifically at how the Indian market was treated by one of world’s most valuable companies. Hence, I would like to give you a myopic PC enthusiast’s take on why the vast majority of Indians have never experienced the full power of Mr Jobs’ vision and products.

Premium and overpriced — most of us just can’t afford them!
There is no arguing that Apple products have never appealed to us beyond their design and aesthetics. Our’s is a very price-sensitive society where practicality and economy win over heart-dominated buying decisions. So, a Mac will always remain an oddity, and stay perpetually at the bottom of anyone’s shopping list. A number of Indian consumers continue to believe that Apple products are overpriced, under-configured, inflexible and with fewer (read pirated) options. A MacBook Pro is priced 30-40% higher than a similarly configured notebook; the MacBook Air, on the other hand, costs nearly twice as much!

This policy of high-end pricing has only just started to wane, but for most of the decade past, Apple products have been prohibitively expensive for most Indians.

Steve Jobs Never Loved Gaming
While it is ironical that Steve Jobs’ first job was at a gaming company — and none other than Atari — it is no secret that he didn’t particularly enjoy gaming. Here’s a quote from John Carmack himself, maker of the ‘Doom and Quake’ series:
“The truth is Steve Jobs doesn’t care about games. This is going to be one of those things that I say something in an interview and it gets fed back to him and I’m on his s***head list for a while on that, until he needs me to do something else there. But I think that that’s my general opinion. He’s not a gamer.”

So let’s be blunt about this one: Steve Jobs was never into gaming. And for nearly a decade, that translated into products that alienated gamers.

iTunes continues to be hobbled for India
It has been 10 years since iPod and iTunes launched. And till date, Indians cannot access the full iTunes store. That’s not all. We are deemed as not good enough to buy a song worth 99 cents (Rs 45). To date, 10 bn songs have been purchased and downloaded on iTunes, but not a single one from an Indian iTunes account.

iTunes error for Indian users
iTunes error for Indian users

Sure piracy is rampant in India, but to not extend a viable alternative is even worse. So while a large part of the world is happily buying music and creating their custom playlists, we are stuck with what we used to back in the 90s. Buying CDs and ripping them, or better still — downloading!

Piracy: we love it, Jobs hates it
Piracy is as rampant as corruption in India, and that’s an understatement. In India, if you can’t use a device without pirated content, then it instantly loses its marketability.

Indians don’t like paying very much for software too. And that’s probably the only reason why Android flourishes in India. With this backdrop, Apple’s products fly in the face of regular Indians. Steve Jobs systematically and successfully engineered an ecosystem where we have to pay for content and software. This is the number one reason why iTunes and the App store are so hated among Indian enthusiasts, not just because they are unwieldy, but because they force you to buy and sync.

We’re a dumping ground
This one gets every self-respecting Indian’s goat. Not only has Apple used India as a “dumping ground”, but has also charged us full price for end-of-life products. The iPhone 3GS and iPad are classic examples of this policy. Forget about that the products made it to our shelves a year after launch, the older ones were sold for their full retail price while the newer versions were sold abroad also for the same price.
So there you have it, over the last decade while Steve Jobs was busy transforming the world of technology with his idiosyncratic and inflexible attitude, he never really made any difference to the regular Indian geek.