A measure of Apple's success: Oppenheimer cites Japan

Apple's success has been particularly noteworthy in Japan, a market where national champions once seemed unassailable.

The iPhone has been an unqualified success in Japan beating national brands in the fiercely competitive handset and smartphone markets.
The iPhone has been an unqualified success in Japan beating national brands in the fiercely competitive handset and smartphone markets. Apple

Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer took a minute during Tuesday's earnings conference call to cite Apple's success in Japan -- an important metric in a country where national brands were once invincible.

"In Japan, IDC Japan announced that iPhone gained the number one position for all of calendar year 2012, as well as for calendar Q4 2012 in both handsets and smartphones," Oppenheimer said.

He continued. "This is also the first time a non-Japanese company has achieved the No. 1 spot for an entire year...In addition, Apple was ranked No. 1 in Nikkei's 2013 Japan Brand [Consumer] Survey, achieving the top spot for the second year in a row, which is unprecedented for a non-Japanese company."

He's right about it being unprecedented. For decades, Japanese consumer electronics brands were virtually untouchable. Sony and Panasonic (branded formerly as National and Matsushita in Japan) dominated consumer electronics, NEC ruled the PC roost, and the cell phone market was almost exclusively a Japanese-brand affair.

Apple has played a large role in changing all of that.

"The reasons for Apple's strength lie in a high evaluation of the 'innovative' and 'outstanding' qualities of the corporate brand and the existence of a series of products that do not betray expectations," wrote Nikkei in March.

And, in consumer electronics, Nikkei doesn't paint a pretty picture of Japan's national brands. "Japan's leading household electric appliance and electric equipment makers, on the other hand, are under the weather," the report said.

Panasonic, Sharp, and Canon were ranked a distant 14th, 54th, and 62nd place, respectively.

Apple isn't the only foreign brand gaining ground. The same Nikkei consumer survey had Google in second place. And IDC shows Samsung gaining ground in smartphones.

Fourth-quarter 2012 Japan smartphone market share by shipments: Apple dominates Japan's smartphone market.
Fourth-quarter 2012 Japan smartphone market share by shipments: Apple dominates Japan's smartphone market. IDC Japan
About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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