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The French Connection

by Jean-Philippe Nicaise with help from Vincent Florin, Benoit Widemann and Thierry Delettre
[Jean-Philippe, by the way, is instrumental in distributing TidBITS in France. Thanks! -Adam]

Take a jumbo, cross the water.

Last Sunday, back home in Reims, some wine growers told me that vintage will begin very soon in the Champagne area. Weather has been good, and the harvest will certainly be a very good one, maybe a "millesime!" If people worldwide especially appreciate our "local wine," we especially appreciate the Macintosh in France. To be honest, France is Apple Computer’s second market after the USA but before Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany (formerly West Germany).

During 1990, Apple Europe, established in August of 1988, reported sales of $1.576 billion, or 28.4% of Apple Computer’s entire sales. Not only that, but sales are still growing at 28% each year! Unlike the USA, Europe is a language and cultural patchwork which means Apple must do a lot of localization. In October 1990, when Apple unveiled the three low cost Macs, they made System 6.07 available in 13 different languages at the same time. Some new (fabulous?) markets are emerging – Eastern Europe and Soviet Union – and Apple is hard at work on new systems for them. As a proof of Apple’s belief in the European market, Apple opened a venture capital fund of $60 million in June 1990, they started a research centre mainly focused on communication products in Paris, and they will open a new production plant in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands (the other big one is in Cork, Ireland).

Europe is different. And I’ll try to use the biggest European market (France) to explain how much. Two weeks ago was the 8th edition of "Apple Expo," an Apple France-organized exposition which took place in Paris. No really big news since Boston’s Macworld Expo, except a general System 7 mania. This was the first time users could really touch it, feel it, and get the "new" 7.0 compatible applications. Apple released French Systeme 7.0 by mid July, about two months after the official international announcement. That’s a really very short time for translation of the whole package!

For a little more than a year now, the major American software companies have created subsidiaries in France. So we can now talk directly to Aldus, Claris, and Symantec (Microsoft already had one, but mainly because of the PC market). Some hardware vendors have also appeared, including RasterOps, GCC, and Farallon. How could we get our Mac stuff before? Only through local distributors. But this had two disadvantages: products were very expensive (five to twenty times the exchange rate!) and users (i.e. clients) weren’t as well treated as in the USA [Ed.’s note: So stop your griping here, it could be worse! :-)]. Copy protection was severe (though piracy wasn’t and still isn’t worse than on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean), translation and user-support were sometimes non-existent, and update policies very strange or nonexistent. Excel 3.0 VF (French Version) is the first Microsoft Mac product that is not copy protected. In 1989, ACI, mother company of ACIUS, used copy protection for "4eme Dimension" in France while they offered "4th Dimension" in the USA without copy protection and at half the French price.

Unfortunately, sometimes American publishers can act worse than some European publishers. Some companies strictly forbid American mail-order firms to deliver their software outside the USA just to protect their foreign distributors. A good example is Caere and its well-known OCR package, OmniPage, which costs $500 in the USA but $1500 in France. Same program, just translated and with less user support. Worse, banning of selling is restricted only to some countries and, if you are in an African country you can order and receive a program that runs only under the US system. Blah!

[Ed.’s note: And this isn’t even getting into the types of software, like various encryption packages, that are export-restricted by the US government.]

Some publishers agree to deliver outside the USA, but do not support users outside the USA. They tell them to ask to the local distributor for upgrades. Of course, the local distributor claims they cannot support these users because they bought the software in the USA. No way out! Many European users had this kind of problem with Adobe Type Manager 1.0 when they wanted to upgrade to version 2.0 later. They ordered in the USA simply because the localized version would have been available only many months later and they wanted good printing immediately.

Claris first gave the example of non-copy protected software (surprising? no, Apple philosophy is there). Early in 1990 they opened their subsidiary, Claris France, taking back their software from P-Ingenierie, one of the largest local distributors. They first came up with really interesting upgrade policies, nice user-support and a toll-free phone number! Strangely, HyperCard 2.x is not distributed by Claris France but by Apple France. Even more strangely, version 2.1 VF is not available yet (no date given) and no upgrade policy has been offered from version 1.x to 2.x. Symantec France, which opened in mid-1990, first reorganised its PC market, letting go its two PC local distributors. BR Publishing, Symantec’s Mac distributor, will certainly have trouble keeping their products. All this adds up to the users’ benefit. Considering the costs of Apple’s low cost Macs, having to pay half as much for a word processor as for your computer was simply crazy.

But the landscape is not all black – many companies act the good way. Software publisher Compose-Tel recently decided to translate and market two top-quality North American games, Darwin’s Dilemma and Tesserae. "Unfortunately most games for the Macintosh are still now marketed only in US version and users do not have support in case of trouble" says Igor Schlumberger of Compose-Tel. His company offers those games fully translated at 1.5 times the exchange rate, and with a one year free upgrade policy. A "premiere" in the French game software for the Mac! Compose-Tel’s other products, Rival, an anti-virus utility, and Souvenir, an advanced phone directory, follow the same rules – low prices and a free upgrade.

One of the most common problems Macintosh products find outside the USA is localization. I’d like all American programers to read, re-read, and read once more Chapter 14 of Inside Macintosh Volume IV: Worldwide Software Overview! [Ed.’s note: You heard him, folks, better check it out before you ship.] I’ve recently been offered an American copy of Symantec’s GreatWorks. In the spreadsheet module, when I type a figure the French way, that is "12,52" instead of "12.52", the application understands "1,252". Symantec should have used the ‘itl’ resources and noticed that I’m using a French system with the French figures standards. Grrr… On the other side, some programs could be considered model citizens. Backup Retriever by the French publisher Additional Design, a backup utility with personal and network capabilities, balloon help, Apple Event awareness, and 32-bit cleanliness also has the ability to localize itself live! If your system is French, menus and help are in French. If your system is English, menus and help are in English. And this with exactly the same application! Soon German and Italian languages will be available. No doubt American users will hear about it very soon since it’s already been translated!

As for now, the hard work for Apple France is to face the new low price policy and to reorganise its distribution circuits. General public stores FNAC and general mail-order firms CAMIF and UGAP have recently signed agreements with Apple France to market the Macintosh products, most of the software, and user-support. In order to face this new challenge, Apple France named as Marketing Director Francois Benveniste, who created the Apple Expo during his two years at Apple France from 1984 to 1986. Now, like many people around the world, we are looking forward seeing the new portables in a few days. And we remember that their modems were designed in Europe.

Information from:
Jean-Philippe Nicaise — [email protected]
Apple Europe propaganda

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