Tim Cook's surprise visit shows nation at core of Apple strategy

Tim Cook's surprise visit shows nation at core of Apple strategy


Apple CEO Tim Cook paid a surprise visit to one of the company's stores in Beijing on Monday, a move that highlights the newfound importance the firm has attached to the huge Chinese market since he took the helm in August 2011. 

Cook was spotted at the Apple store in the Xidan area of Beijing by a number of users of the popular Chinese micro-blogging website Sina Weibo, and a photo of him in the store was posted on a weibo user's page later in the day. 

In a marked difference from the strategy adopted by his predecessor Steve Jobs, who never visited China's Apple stores, Cook has been to the country several times and earlier said the Chinese market is "very important" 

A further sign of the growing importance Apple is attaching to China came with a report on the Internet news portal sina.com saying it would embed Chinese IT giant Baidu Inc's search engine into its operating system next month. 

Google Inc's search engine has been the only embedded search engine since the company launched its iOS mobile operating system, used in its iPhone, iPads and laptops. 

The company sold 4.7 million iPads in China last year, leading the industry with a 70 percent market share. 

"It's a sign that Apple is paying more attention to the Chinese mainland market," said Sun Peilin, an analyst at Beijing-based research company Analysys International. 

However, both companies were tightlipped on the reported search engine link-up. 

When approached by China Daily, Baidu declined to comment, and Apple said it didn't have any statement to make. 

In mid-February, Apple integrated some services for Chinese users on its next-generation desktop operation system, including Baidu search and quick sharing buttons tailored for the Chinese micro-blogging website Sina Weibo and video website Youku.com. 

"Searching is Baidu's only core business, so every move the company conducts should help the development of its search business," Dong Xu, an analyst at Analysys International. 

"Baidu is teaming up with Apple to grab more traffic volume for its wireless business," Dong said. Although Baidu's position in PC searching is strong, its mobile search business is less competitive, and needs more investment, she said. 

On Saturday, Baidu announced that it will set up an online platform for application developers. Robin Li, Baidu's founder and CEO, pledged to provide the new initiative with more technologies and flow capacities. 

Building stronger relations with the government is another likely reason for Cook's surprise visit. 

"Previous experiences show that the CEOs of overseas giants come to China trying to establish a better relationship with the government," said Sun. 

"That's also the reason Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg visited China in late 2010." 

China accounted for around 10 percent of the US-based company's sales revenue last year, a growth rate that was much faster than other countries, Cook said. 

However, the Chinese mainland was excluded from the first group of countries and regions to release Apple's new iPad on March 16. 

(Source: China Daily)

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