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Apple chief eyes quicker launches in China market

By Shen Jingting ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-01-11 07:29:59

Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook wants the Chinese mainland - with its 1.1 billion mobile phone users - to be among the first markets to launch his company's new products in the future.

In a rare interview with Chinese media during his second visit to the country since March 2012, Cook said Apple is always working hard to help shorten the approval process for the company's products to enter the mainland.

He said he hopes to shorten this timing gap between the Chinese mainland and other markets as much as possible. This is one of his work priorities in the future, Cook was quoted as saying by news portal Sina.

Apple enthusiasts on the Chinese mainland have to wait longer to buy the company's latest products. The iPhone 5 handset, which started selling in the United States in September last year, reached the mainland market on Dec 14.

Otherwise, the only way to buy Apple devices in advance is to go abroad or buy through illegal channels.

Huang Yi, a finance industry worker in Beijing's central business district, said she hated waiting, so she spent an extra 1,000 yuan ($160) to buy an iPhone 4S from scalpers last year.

Cook told Sina: "China has always been the most important market to Apple - it is Apple's second-largest market now and I believe, in the near future, China will become the biggest market for us."

Apple chief eyes quicker launches in China market

He said he has a deep affection for China, is interested in its culture, and his sister-in-law is Chinese.

"I have visited China at least 20 times. My first trip was in 1996. A huge change has happened in China," he said.

Apple opened its first outlet in China in 2008 in Beijing's Sanlitun. Since then, it has opened 10 more stores in the country, including three in Hong Kong.

"We will continue to expand in China, and the number of retail stores we'll have will exceed 25," Cook was quoted as saying.

During his visit, Cook met Miao Wei, minister of industry and information technology, on Tuesday, and discussed the development of China's information technology industry, global mobile communications and Apple's business in China.

He then met senior management at China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd on Wednesday.

Rumors continue to swirl on Apple's potential cooperation with China Mobile Ltd, the world's biggest telecom carrier with a customer base of more than 700 million. Cook said on Thursday he respected China Mobile very much, but could not reveal any information about cooperation.

Li Jun, a China Mobile spokesman, said in a text message statement to China Daily: "On Thursday morning, Apple's CEO Tim Cook visited China Mobile's headquarters. China Mobile's Chairman Xi Guohua and Cook discussed matters of cooperation."

No further details will be given due to a signed confidentiality agreement, the statement said.

Sandy Shen, a telecoms analyst at Gartner China, said there is a only a small chance that Apple and China Mobile will reach an agreement within six months, as China Mobile is sticking to a homegrown telecommunications standard that Apple does not support.

Apple may resolve the obstacle after China Mobile starts rolling out its 4G TD-LTE technology, she said.

Xi said in June last year it was hard to predict when Apple's iPhone could finally be used on his company's networks.

"Apple's business in China will be incomplete if it does not cooperate with China Mobile," said Xi.

shenjingting@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 01/11/2013 page13)

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