Apple brand and sales in the Middle East stifled by lack of Arabic Microsoft Office

Open letter to Apple

Dear Mr. Steve Jobs and the rest of the Apple family:

I am a Mac evangelist who is simply frustrated with Apple’s position in the Middle East. Your company was a pioneer in Arabization and that’s why you completely won the Arab desktop publishing market in the 80’s and 90’s.

Today, Apple’s brand and sales are being stifled in this region. Your success in other regions has hardly been evident in this part of the world. Yes, the iPod, sales of Mac to newspapers and design houses and a few Mac enthusiasts are keeping the Apple brand afloat in the Middle East. But in larger consumer and business markets Apple in not a factor.

This is sad, given Apple’s current global success.

The single biggest problem today with Apple in the region is the lack of an Arabic MS Office!

No serious Arab business person or consumer (outside the design and media worlds) is willing to go for Apple if he or she know that they will not be able to easily open Arabic Word and Excel files.

I have met so many people who are willing to buy Apple, but refrain from doing so because of this problem. Many of them are former Mac users who abandoned the platform in Apple’s dark days.

Thankfully, Arabic for MacOS X has improved a lot (ironically OS 6, 7 and 8 where properly Arabized). Of course there is room for improvement. For example, Firefox renders Arabic web pages better than Safari.

The Arab market is witnessing tremendous growth in every aspect of technology. But today, Apple is known only to very few consumers and businesses. Maybe the Middle East is not a primary market for Apple, but I am sure there is a long term benefit from Apple strengthening its position in the region.

Can you please apply some pressure on Microsoft to launch Arabic Office for the Mac (they have it for Windows after all).

(Hey, Microsoft, if you are reading this, consider it an open letter to you too. Is is so hard to fix this problem.)

I hope something can be done about this..


Ahmad Humeid
Frustrated Mac Enthusiast

Picture credits:
Where Apple’s Go to Die
Originally uploaded by miskan.

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12 Responses to “Apple brand and sales in the Middle East stifled by lack of Arabic Microsoft Office”

  1. Ameen Malhas Says:

    As a recent convert myself, I’ll have to agree with most of what you said.

    It is really odd that Firefox renders Arabic text so beautifully, while Safari often ends up with jumbles of disconnected letters.

    The MS-Office issue I think is solely the responsibiltiy of MacBU (Macintosh Business Unit) over at Microsoft. A bunch of their developers have blogs, and I think we should contact them through their blogs.

    A second issue is the lack of Arabic keyboard, they should have an arabized Apple keyboard, I’m not talking about the embedded PowerBook one (although that would be nice), I’m talking about a nice external Bluetooth Arabic/English keyboard similar to the ones they have now for Spanish (I know) and Japanese (I assume).

    I don’t know how I feel about Arabizing OS X itself (as I never used the Arabized Windows systems), I just feel weird when asked to انقر here or there.

    At the end of the day, it all depends on the business case presented to MacBU. If that’s something you’d be interested in doing Ahmad, please let me know, I churn out Business and Marketing plans on a weekly basis for our family business. Do you think we should contact ABM (Arab Business Machines) about this? Aren’t they responsible as well?

    I’m sorry I blabber and this comment is quite disorganized, but I am hereby declaring myself a volunteer and an evangelist for spreading Apple products in the Middle East, so if there’s anything i could help with, please email me and let me know.


  2. Janti Says:

    First of all, Apple can’t put any kind of pressure on Microsoft; they’re slaves to Microsoft in this area, with lack of any real competition to Microsoft’s Office solution.

    With that being said, I can see that Microsoft is applying this no-Arabic-version-of-Office-for-Mac policy in purpose to reduce the sales of Macs in the Middle East, well “Macs don’t run Windows!” and that bother Bill Gates.

    Now, let’s discuss this subjectively, I wonder, what’s so special about Mac vs. PC, modern PCs are doing very good in benchmarks against Macs, and they’re competitively priced, function on all scenarios without any compatibility troubles, more upgradeable (especially those on AMD platform), Windows is improving on all sides, features, stability (no more many blue screen of death), reliability, scalability…etc.

    Well, I have to admit that Macs computers are peace of art when it comes to the exterior looks.

    But I always wonder, what’s so special – really I want to know – about Macs, they’re faster? More stable? Better applications availability? Better hardware availability? Competitively priced? More upgradeable? More feature-rich?

    I saw Macs hangs, I saw all kind of problems that a PC user may see on Macs and it’s not fast as hell also!

    Other than the good looks, I can’t see anything that makes Macs in anyway better than PCs, even the good look is no more an issue with custom cases design out there for PCs, and other hardware is already better than Apples’.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to offend you or any other Mac enthusiast, but I just wonder what so special about the Mac, just wanna know, that’s all.


  3. Humeid Says:


    Short of starting a Mac vs PC discussion here (which I am sure rages on in different parts of the net), let me state how I persoanlly see it.

    1. Macs have better software-hardware integration. Everything is integrated by Apple so issues with drivers and devices are much less on Macs. I installed PCs before and one of the annoying things is dealing with the different documentation booklets and CDs you get for various vendors.

    2. MacOS X is very solid (based on UNIX). It won the praise of many IT leaders. It is visually better designed. As a visual person I appreciate the attention to visual and functional detail Apple have. There are many little innovations here and there that make a difference on the user experience level.

    3. So far, Mac users have absolutely no problems with viruses and spyware. I know you can solve this with Windows, but the ‘default’ situatuion seems to be that normal windows users suffer from spyware and other annoying stuff.

    4. As you said, the cool physical/industrial design of macs. Also the lightness of my 17” PowerBook is admirable.

    5. The Apple brand. This might be an intangible. But people do care how a company presents itself to the outside world and how that reflects its culture. When I see the Dell website for example I just see a shop. Contrast that with Apple, who recently featured the African American activist Rosa Parks on their entire home page when she died. From that, I ended up learning about her role in ending the discrimination against African Americans. A company who uses its shop front for a humane message is worthy of some resepct in my opinion.

    That it from me :)

  4. Sabbagh Says:

    i think this link is enough ;)

  5. Elissa Says:

    Hello Ahmed,

    I came across your message b/c I’m trying to decide whether to buy a Mac or a PC. Right now I have an iBook, but it is really old and slow. I live in the U.S., but I’m studying Arabic, and will need to type it. My question to you is: does having a Mac make it harder to function in the Middle East? Is it really harder to use Arabic on the Mac? I don’t want to buy the wrong computer and realize it later…

    Yes, Safari does display things broken up- I thought maybe it was just me! Running Firefox is not a good choice for me right now because it uses a lot more memory, I hear.



  6. Hussein Says:

    The problem of Safari is caused by the fonts that MS Office install.
    try to disable these fonts or remove them and everything will be OK in safari and many other softs.
    These fonts are “Times New Roman”,”Arial” & “Tahoma”
    I did that and everything goes fine.
    BTW, I’m a recent switcher from PC to MAC. I like OSX much better than XP.
    If you want to writte in arabic use solution. It is Free

  7. Sami Says:

    Hi Ahmed,
    just came back from Virsion mega store in Emirates Mall after attending the opening of Kitabat conference. I saw the new MacBook Pro and it is very cool. when i get back to the hotel I saw CNN report about the new software Boot Camp that allows users with a Microsoft Windows XP to install Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac, and once installation is complete, users can restart their computer to run either Mac OS X or Windows XP.

    Here find more information about it

  8. Magnus Says:

    Although I don’t speak or write arabic I can understand your frustration because I come from a country with non-standard-characters (Sweden) and there you have many of the same issues.

    Trying to increase awareness of this and related issues is one of the reasons why I started

  9. Lily Says:

    Have you tried Neooffice?
    I’m no judge of how well it renders the arabic but my brother had a windows word file in arabic and it was showing up interestingly on his powerbook and I opened it up on mine with Neooffice…
    The coversion took a good time but I think he was happy with the result.

  10. Magnus Says:

    To try to push more for Apple, Mac and related products in the Middle East I’m creating a search engine dedicated to those issues in the region. We’re using Google’s Co-op feature and the site should be up and running shortly. It will be

  11. bc Says:

    hi there, I was wonering if there is a way to get a new macbook or pro with arabic keys actually on it rather than stickers?? by the way had a g4 for 3 years and it still hasnt crashed once or picked up a virus, so i would say thats an indicator as to the mac/pc difference.

  12. oldie Says:

    in lebanon all MAC’s are sold with arabic keys (not stickers!) and as for arabic, you can always use “Milal” word processor for ARABIC! sweet one!

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