It's not surprising that many Mac users here in the United States feel embattled.
Consider the Mac's perpetual minority share of the PC market, the sheer aggressiveness of Microsoft Corp. and PC makers such as Compaq and Dell, historical gaps in productivity and gaming offerings for the Mac (to name two categories), and the standardization of many sites great and small on Windows -- not to mention Apple's own near-death experience in the mid-'90s.
Now imagine the sentiments of Mac users in Israel. Or Taiwan. Or South Africa, South Korea or India.
I've developed a strong idea of these users' concerns thanks to MacWEEK's ongoing series on the status of Mac availability around the world. What started out as a look by MacWEEK and its international partners at the availability of the latest models in some of Apple's core markets (North America, Japan, Europe and Australia) quickly prompted a flood of letters from readers in countries with real Mac supply problems.
Many of these Mac users live in countries with a strong PC market but where new Mac gear is scarce and the Mac's market share languishes below the single digits.
Israel's Mac users blast local distributor Yeda for stifling competition, ignoring games, offering lackluster support for the Hebrew version of the Mac OS and failing to promote the Mac beyond a narrow swath of Mac-using sites.
Taiwan's Mac loyalists are quick to note a painful irony: Despite the fact their country is home to much of Apple's portable Mac manufacturing, shipments of new Macs there lag far behind the rest of the world. When they do arrive, the prices are high enough that several users noted it would be cheaper for them to buy a plane ticket to Hong Kong or Japan and shop for hardware while they're on vacation.
South Africa's Mac dealers say they've seen only a handful of iMacs since July, and South Korean resellers say Apple Korea has nary a clue about when it's going to get its hands on significant quantities of the latest hardware.
Reviewing these passionate pleas from abroad inspires me to reach for another key trait in the Mac user's arsenal: an indefatigable sense of optimism.
While I feel the pain of these users -- not to mention the endless struggles faced by Mac enthusiasts in such exotic locales as Colombia, Lithuania and Guyana -- I'm also struck by how the Mac can continue to inspire a small cadre of loyalists even in regions where every consideration of marketing, support or even availability points to Wintel.
Despite adversity that makes U.S. Mac users' travails pale by comparison, many of these folks have stuck with the Mac for more than a decade, and few of them give any sign of switching their allegiance.
These users are an amazing testimonial to the enduring appeal of the Mac as a platform. They also represent a powerful, energetic potential source of leverage in markets Apple has never gotten around to cultivating.
Matthew Rothenberg is director of online content for Mac Publishing LLC, which publishes MacWEEK, MacCentral, Macworld and MacBuy.