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Apple to open UAE office this year - channel sources

Market waiting to see if long-standing rumours of local presence materialise

Will Apple open its first representative office in the Middle East this year? Resellers close to the company certainly think so.
Will Apple open its first representative office in the Middle East this year? Resellers close to the company certainly think so.

Apple is set to open its first representative office for the Middle East in Abu Dhabi, according to channel sources working closely with the vendor.

Apple has never had any employees based in the region up to now, preferring instead to channel all its business through Arab Business Machine (ABM). However, talk of the Mac vendor launching its own operations has grown louder in the market during the past year, and now resellers claim they expect concrete developments in the next few months.

One Apple dealer said it had been told by Apple officials who visited the region that the company had selected office space in Abu Dhabi, and had originally intended to move in last December.    

The source suggested Apple's motivation for seeking a local presence could be to gain greater control over the development of its business in the region.

"They now have a lot of products that are going outside of distribution, like the iPad and iPhone, and I think they want to supervise such things themselves in the region," said the partner. "Our feeling is that Apple would be more aggressive in terms of visiting large accounts and developing other businesses. Their involvement in certain deals at the moment suggests this is the direction they are moving."

Any move to open a representative office in the Middle East is likely to create speculation over Apple's future channel strategy as well. At the moment its products are distributed solely through ABM, which is based in the UAE. ABM used to be Apple's International Marketing Company (IMC) for the region, but now carries the title of ‘Authorised Distributor' following a corporate rebranding exercise 18 months ago.

ABM sells to a broad network of Apple Authorised Resellers, Authorised Premium Resellers and Authorised Retailers throughout the Middle East, including GraphiTech, Direct Access, KMS and iPoint.  

One Apple dealer welcomed the prospect of Apple having its own staff on the ground. "It would definitely be a good thing because Apple will get a better feel for the market. If Apple is in the picture I think it will look more closely at how it needs to strategically support partners to focus on certain products or markets. It won't just be about short-term profit."

When approached for comment on the Abu Dhabi office situation, a spokesperson for Apple UK, which oversees the Middle East business, said the company had "nothing to announce at this point in time."