Apple chief talks tech turkey with China Mobile

We all knew Apple CEO Tim Cook was back in China this week, though nobody except Apple really knew why. Now comes word that Cook met with China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua on Thursday to discuss “matters of cooperation,” according to a China Mobile spokesman.

Could the Cupertino tech giant perhaps be inching toward a hook-up with the world’s largest mobile carrier? Seems like a no-brainer, right?

For now, though, we’ve only a few measly tea leaves to read, including this quote from  Li Jun, a China Mobile spokesman who emailed a just-the-facts-ma’am statement to Reuters on Thursday:

“In the morning, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook visited China Mobile’s headquarters. China Mobile’s Chairman Xi Guohua and Tim Cook discussed matters of cooperation.”

Well, I suppose that’s more promising than “matters of mutual destruction.”

In any case, no other details were forthcoming. In the larger context, however, such a deal could help Apple shore up its sagging global share of smartphones in China, the world’s biggest market for mobile devices. Apple already has deals with China Unicom and China Telecom to sell its iPhones in that country. The biggest fish of all, however, is still out there swimming around.

In an interview with local media on Thursday, Cook told reporters that he’s confident China will become Apple’s largest market in the near future, which suggests a mega-deal between the companies may be in the works. And even though he was playing his smartphone cards close to his vest, Cook was quoted by Sina Technology News as telling reporters:

“Currently, Apple has 11 stores in the Greater China region, as well as many resellers. We will continue to expand in China and the number of retail stores we’ll have will exceed 25.”

And in another bit of Apple news on Thursday, the company’s marketing chief Phil Schiller seemed to imply in an interview that Apple is not making a cheaper iPhone, which analysts had said was likely aimed at the Chinese market.

According to a report in The Next Web, Schiller told the Shanghai Evening News:

“Despite the popularity of cheap smartphones, this will never be the future of Apple’s products. In fact, although Apple’s market share of smartphones is just about 20 percent, we own 75 percent of the profit.”

 

Patrick May Patrick May (323 Posts)

With more than 30 years on the front line of daily American journalism, I'm currently a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News, covering Apple and writing people-centric business stories from Silicon Valley.