News of the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs reached Japan on Thursday, as manufacturers hawked their latest iPad and MacBook clones at a giant trade show outside of Tokyo.
Thousands of attendees at Ceatec, Japan’s largest electronics exhibition, walked past rows of booths displaying thin tablets with glass touchscreens and tiny, lightweight ultrabook computers. The country’s electronics makers, including Sony, Toshiba and Fujitsu, all showed their tablet lines launched in pursuit of the iPad, while others like Sharp have already admitted defeat and slashed production.
“Steve Jobs was really the one that had pulled the world along behind him in terms of computers and technology, and his death will rattle the tech world,” said Kanae Tani, a second-year college student studying networking.
Tani spoke just outside the massive Sony booth at Ceatec, where the company also displayed its latest Walkman digital music players, an iconic product that was famously eclipsed by the iPod.
Sony CEO and President Howard Stringer issued a statement saying: “The digital age has lost its leading light, but Steve’s innovation and creativity will inspire dreamers and thinkers for generations.”
Japan has long been a key market for Apple, and is the only country listed separately in Apple’s earnings reports, accounting for over 5 percent of global revenue. It is the only Asian country in which the iPhone 4S will be available during the global launch on Oct. 14.
At the Apple Store in Ginza, central Tokyo, dozens stopped to pay respects to Jobs, some laying flowers outside below an iPad display and bowing in respect. A candlelight vigil was planned at nightfall.
Miyuki Noma, who said she has been a devoted fan of the company’s products since her first Apple computer in 1995, came wearing a necklace with the company’s logo and a silver ring in the shape of the command key from the its keyboards.
“I was very shocked. I’ve always liked and used Apple products, I knew this day would come, but I didn’t know it would be today, I’ve been crying since morning,” she said.
For many in Japan, the introduction to Apple products came through its music player and mobile phones, the first such foreign products to make an impact in the country.
The company’s distinctive white headphones have become commonplace on Tokyo’s streets and trains, and companies like Softbank, the exclusive Japanese purveyor of the iPhone and iPad, have become dependent on Apple products for a large portion of their profits.
“Steve was truly a genius of our time, a man with a rare ability to fuse art and technology. In centuries from now, he will be remembered alongside Leonardo da Vinci,” said Softbank CEO and founder Masayoshi Son, who has worn Jobs’ trademark mock turtleneck at his own press conferences.