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Failure to launch: Apple bungles Snow Leopard distribution in New Zealand


So, how's everybody enjoying Snow Leopard? Good stuff, isn't it? Gotta love those new Exposé options in the Dock, and all that saved hard drive space, and the faster if slightly quirkier performance... isn't it, um... great?

Argh. I can't keep up the charade anymore. I know nothing about the Snow Leopard experience other than what other people have told me, because it's not available in New Zealand yet (at least not outside of Auckland). And I'm not happy about it. And I'm going to rant... now.

In July of 2008, the Apple-loving (and Apple-hating) world's eyes locked onto a small, isolated nation in the South Pacific: New Zealand, home to 40 million sheep and a few hundred otherwise perfectly normal human beings dressed as hobbits. Why so much attention on New Zealand? Because of all the countries getting the iPhone 3G, New Zealand was getting it first thanks to its location just west of the International Date Line.

The logistics involved in a rolling launch across most of the world must have been staggeringly complex, but with a few bumps here and there, Apple pulled it off. The launch of the iPhone 3G was a success not just in New Zealand, but worldwide.

That led me to believe that something similar would happen for the launch of Snow Leopard. After all, if Apple could pull off launching the iPhone 3G in so many countries on the same day, it ought to be a simple matter to do the same thing with a much smaller and simpler product. I mean, it's got to be harder to coordinate the launch of a big ol' phone compared to what's essentially just a plastic disk in a box, right? Right...?

Well, not so much. Apple has fumbled the NZ launch of Snow Leopard like a wide receiver wearing butter-coated gloves. Plus the receiver is blind. Also, he doesn't know how to play football.

Other TUAW bloggers have posted about their Snow Leopard upgrade experiences, so here's mine (so far):

Tuesday, 25 August: I wake up to the announcement that weeks of rumors have been true, and Snow Leopard is indeed shipping at the end of the week. But here in NZ, that's shipping by the end of the week, not being delivered. So, remembering back to the launch of the iPhone 3G, I get this crazy idea that maybe it'll come out in stores down here before anywhere else thanks to the time zone difference, and won't I just be so slick when I'm not just the first person on my block, but first on Earth with my very own shiny Snow Leopard box. Hee hee, I thought as I rubbed my hands together.

Friday, 28 August: Snow Leopard Launch day! Yay!

10 A.M.: Let's go to Dick Smith's Powerhouse on Rangitikei Street. They sell Macs. In fact, they have a whole dedicated kiosk for Macs and Mac-related stuff. They're bound to have Snow Leopard, if anyone in Palmerston North does, which is why I go there first.

I bound up to the kiosk like Santa Claus was sitting there instead of a bunch of display Macs. But I see no Snow Leopard.

I ask the first sales clerk I can find, "Do you guys have any copies of Snow Leopard?"

"Er, yeah, I mean, we were supposed to get them in, but it doesn't look like it's come in yet. You could try back on Monday maybe."

Monday? No. Monday's no good. I've got to get my hands on a copy ASAP so I can start doing features reviews. No Snow Leopard means no reviews, means no review posts, means no money for review posts. And no money makes me a sad panda. And a broke panda, which is far worse.

10:10 A.M. Let's go across the parking lot to Norman Ross. They also sell Macs, but they're a bit more apologetic about it. They've got some Apple gear stashed away on a shelf, hidden behind the anonymous Dells and whatnot. But maybe, just maybe... anyhow, it's worth a try.

Sure enough, no Snow Leopard. And when I ask the clerk if they have any copies of it, she stares at me like I just asked her if they have the actual animal tied up in the back. I have to explain to her what I'm talking about. She shuffles off to the back. Five minutes later, she gives me a confusing answer that implies she didn't even look for the right thing. Next.

10:20 A.M. Let's go across the street to Noel Leeming. They also sell Macs, and like Dick Smith's, they have a dedicated Mac kiosk. But what they don't have is any copies of Snow Leopard. Once I can actually get the counter guy to understand what I'm talking about, he finds out that they do have a space for it in their retail system, but they haven't even ordered any copies yet. He did offer to order a copy, but it wouldn't come in until next week.

10:25 A.M. Let's go next door to Bond+Bond. They occasionally have a Mac or two hiding out next to the Vaios and Acers, but they're really not focused on computer sales. What the hell, it's worth a shot. I'm running out of options here.

Unsurprisingly, no Snow Leopard. I don't even bother asking if they have any copies at Bond+Bond, because they don't even have any Macs in the store, much less Mac software.

10:35 A.M. Let's go a kilometre up the road to Harvey Norman. They also have a dedicated Mac kiosk. They usually overcharge like crazy compared to all the other stores, but at this point I'm willing to chance that.

No Snow Leopard. Another dumbfounded expression from another sales clerk when I ask for it. She checks the system, and big surprise: Harvey Norman hasn't ordered any copies yet, either.

At this point, I'm getting desperate.

11:00 A.M. Let's call Desktop Technology Solutions and see if they have any copies. They're technically just a repair center (the only Apple-authorized repair center in the entire region, in fact), and they don't normally do sales, but perhaps...?

Nope. Like everyone else in freaking town except for Dick Smith's, they haven't even bothered ordering Snow Leopard.

12:00 P.M. Let's go to the other Dick Smith's across town. Because that's the last place in Palmerston North that could conceivably have a copy. After this, there's no chance of me picking up a copy today.

Aaaaaand – they don't have it. They've consolidated all their Mac stuff in the first store I went to.

So there goes my big plan of getting Snow Leopard before anyone in the States.

I send off an e-mail to MagnumMac in Wellington. MagnumMac is pretty much as close to an Apple store as it gets in New Zealand. If you want to go to an actual Apple store, you have to hop on a plane and fly across the Tasman Sea to Sydney. MagnumMac's store in Auckland even sort of looks like an actual Apple store if you squint. So if anyone's going to have Snow Leopard in New Zealand, it's going to be MagnumMac. Their service agent assures me he'll set aside a copy for me and e-mail me if they get it in.

I was planning on going to Wellington this weekend anyway, so:

Saturday, August 29

9:00 A.M. - Leave Palmerston North for Wellington.

11:00 A.M. - Arrive at MagnumMac in Wellington.

11:02 A.M. - Leave MagnumMac in a rage. "Next Wednesday, maybe."

11:05 A.M. - 11:15 A.M. - Try to navigate Apple's seemingly purposefully obfuscatory phone system to try to get a human being to explain to me why no one in the whole frakking country is selling Snow Leopard.

11:16 A.M. - Give up on the whole sorry affair, drive to Wellington's Botanical Gardens, and drink half a bottle of wine with my wife and dog. (I should clarify - the dog got no wine. She's not 18 yet.)

1:30 P.M. - While I'm preparing this article in my head, I realize that I'd better cover my bases before announcing to the whole world that Snow Leopard's not available anywhere in NZ. So I call MagnumMac in Auckland.

Well guess what? MagnumMac in Auckland has Snow Leopard! Huzzah! Too bad it's a seven hour drive to get up there.

7:00 P.M. - Visit the NZ online Apple Store. Find out they want $15 in shipping for Snow Leopard - a disc in a frakking box - and it takes 3 to 5 business days to ship. Um, how about no. Especially since Snow Leopard is already about US$7 more in NZ for some odd reason, and that's after taking taxes into account.

Now after all this, you might ask, why do I blame Apple for this abysmal launch? After all, it isn't Apple's fault the resellers aren't on the ball, right?

Problem with that reasoning is at least two NZ resellers - MagnumMac and Dick Smith's - were on the ball and ordered Snow Leopard as soon as its availability was announced. But although millions of discs magically made their way to the United States, it seems only one store in all of New Zealand got any discs at all on launch day. Which leaves everybody in New Zealand who uses a Mac but doesn't live in Auckland to twiddle our thumbs (or, in my case, shake their fists in rage) until Apple remembers that hey, people in New Zealand use Macs too, and graciously bestows Snow Leopard upon us.

Why am I so mad? Or, if you prefer, why so serious? Two reasons. One, if the iPhone 3G can get down here on time, there's no reason Snow Leopard can't, other than pure incompetence. They both come from China, they both come from Apple, they both come by plane and not a clipper ship... if the iPhone 3G can make it all the way down to Christchurch on launch day, Snow Leopard should have been a cinch. Two, not being able to get a copy of Snow Leopard so I can review it and dig into its features actually materially affects me. I am basically losing money because of Apple's screw-up.

So for all of you who have Snow Leopard up and running: enjoy it. Drink a 64-bit cold one for me, because who knows how long it's going to be before I can join the party.

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