Apple chief Tim Cook in China: Three things he could be doing

Summary:Apple's chief executive Tim Cook is in China, for reasons unknown. Amid Foxconn strikes, trademark infringement allegations and iPhone sales, here's what he could be up to.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has been spotted in China, in an Apple retail store no less.

He turned up at the Beijing's Xidan province Apple store, thought to be the world's largest in terms of customer flow and sales volume.

It's not the first time Cook has been to the region, however, where Apple has its manufacturing plants and factories, after the late Steve Jobs avoided a visit in favour of sending his then-deputy to supposedly smooth over issues with Foxconn.

It is the first time Cook has been to the country as chief executive.

Why Cook is in China is anybody's guess. Apple is keen to draw out a plan for China, with a population over three-times larger than that of its U.S. home.

Here's what Cook could be doing:

1. Cook in talks to bring the iPhone to China Telecom

Apple currently holds a 7.5 percent market share in China, compared to Samsung's 24.3 percent. ZDNet's Hana Stewart-Smith questions whether the iPhone is failing to keep up in the region.

China Telecom is the third-largest mobile network in the country with an estimated 62 million subscribers. Rival China Mobile doesn't support the iPhone's 3G hardware, but is currently testing its next-generation 4G LTE network. It already has over 10 million 2G-only "unofficial" iPhone subscribers on the network.

China Telecom started selling the iPhone 4S on March 9 following a contract deal signed in February, breaking China Unicom's monopoly over the highly-sought after device.

2. Cook to even out Apple's Foxconn troubles

Rumours and rumblings of a hiring spree in the wake of strikes at the Foxconn manufacturing plant, which builds Apple's iPhones, iPads and other devices, could be a reason why Cook is in the country.

Apple has come under fire for its labour practices and working conditions at its Foxconn plant in China as of late, with many petitioning and demanding an "ethical iPhone". As a last ditch attempt to keep workers happy amid spot checks and inspections, Cook could be meeting with Foxconn bosses as part of efforts to keeping vastly the Western world happy with an ongoing supply of Apple products.

3. Cook in China to fix the Proview trademark infringement problem

The continuing battle over the "IPAD" trademark in China is causing a headache for Apple at home, as the company has to fight and win the case in order to get the iPad 3 out onto the Chinese market.

China does not yet sell the iPad 3, which was announced and released earlier this month in the U.S., Australia, Europe, and dozens more countries. While the iPad 3 has already passed through the first regulatory hurdle, reports The Next Web, it still has a long way to go before the Chinese authorities allow the device to go on sale.

But Proview's trademark assault on Apple is hardly helping things. Apple released a vast amount of evidence, to AllThingsD making it clear it is not bowing out without a fight. But Proview continues to argue that it was misled into selling the trademark to Apple, as part of the Cupertino-based company's near-paranoia with product secrecy.

Then again, he could be in China on vacation and there's nothing more to it. Frankly, it's just a good job he didn't accidentally walk into a counterfeit Apple store --- though most have been shut down since last year's raids by Chinese authorities.

An Apple spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

Image source: Weibo.

Related:

Topics: Hardware, Apple, China, Mobility, Networking, Smartphones

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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