Apple CEO Tim Cook arrived in Beijing yesterday, to do his best to right his company’s ship before it takes on too much water in their second-largest market.
This is Cook’s 11th visit to the Middle Kingdom since he took over as Apple CEO in 2011. In previous visits, he was received like a rock star in Apple stores across the country. But this time, with sales slipping, he is all about the apps.
Last week, Apple made a $1 billion investment into China’s leading ride-hailling app Didi Chuxing, analysts interpreted the move as a signal to both the Chinese government and Chinese startups that Apple’s interests are aligned with their own.
In April, Apple posted significant declines in its sales for the first time in 13 years, with the lion’s share of those losses coming from its Chinese market-share. Once a runaway success in China, Apple’s iPhone sales have slipped in recent years thanks to protectionist policies that inflate its price, benefiting low-cost domestic competitors who have borrowed liberally from Apple.
Apple hoped to be able to make up the difference by offering services to its existing Chinese customers, but the American company has largely been blocked in that effort as well, being forced to shut down its iTunes movie store and iBooks under government pressure.
But Cook didn’t mention any of that on Monday. Instead, he took another opportunity to say more nice things about the exploding app scene in China, noting that developers have made $7 billion in China, more than half of it in the past 12 months, and that these apps are even being download in “hundreds of countries,” according to ECNS.
“We are in the early phases of a tremendous growth,” Cook said. “Government policies like Internet Plus act as the foundation of why I think the growth can be so incredible from here. They foster innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the Chinese economy.”
Cook even got to experience that innovation first hand, as Didi President Jean Liu Qing (wearing an Apple watch) taught him how to hail a ride on her phone. They then rode together to a meeting with developers. The bill? Only a billion dollars.
"Taxi!" Caught a cab in Beijing this morning with Didi Chuxing's Jean Liu. pic.twitter.com/Sl2xnzXtNY
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) May 16, 2016
Luckily, the driver remembered to wear his pants.
Sadly, as part of this charm offensive, it doesn’t look like Cook will putting on his running shorts for a cheerful jog around smog-cloaked Tiananmen. However, he did meet up with Singaporean pop star JJ Lin for an erhu jam on the new GarageBand.
Reports are that Cook will leave for his first visit to India as Apple CEO later this week. But before he leaves he really ought to pick up a snazzy leather “iPhone” cell phone case. Those things are top quality.
[Images via People’s Daily / Sina]