Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, today met with China Mobile’s Chairman, Xi Guohua, after earlier an earlier meeting this week with China’s Minister for Industry and Information Technology, Miao Wei. Today’s meeting with China Mobile is notable because the Chinese carrier is the world’s largest mobile phone operator with roughly 700 million subscribers and does not yet offer the iPhone to its customers.
China Mobile said in a statement that Tim Cook and Xi Guohua “discussed matters of cooperation” but declined to go into specifics due to a confidentiality agreement that was signed by both parties. Apple has been negotiating with China Mobile over carrying the iPhone since at least May last year, but the two have struggled to come to an agreement over the terms of revenue sharing.
Tuesday’s meeting with the Chinese Minister for Industry and Information Technology saw the two chat about innovation, China’s IT industry and the mobile industry. Yesterday, Tim Cook and Phil Schiller were spotted visiting an official Apple reseller in Beijing. Whilst today Tim Cook gave an in-depth interview to Sina Technology News where he said Apple expects China to soon become their largest market. In noting this, Cook also unsurprisingly revealed that Apple will be expanding its retail presence in China from 11 stores to more than 25 (no time frame is specified, but presumably in 2013).
Just over a month ago, Horace Dediu of Asymco penned an article entitled ‘Does S stand for Spring’ in which he hypothesised that perhaps Apple might be moving to a biannual (twice-yearly) release cycle for the iPhone and iPad. Over the past month I’ve gone back to read Dediu’s hypothesis as news articles and analyst opinions surfaced and I did some analysis of Apple myself. It’s got to the point that I really think Dediu’s hypothesis has got real potential to become reality. So I decided to take some time to present Dediu’s evidence in a slightly different way, elaborating on some of his evidence and hopefully add to the discussion. But if you haven’t read the Asymco article yet, I’d highly recommend you do so before proceeding:
Apple has on three seperate occasions announced that the iPhone 5 will have the fastest international rollout of any iPhone ever – at the announcement keynote, during the Q4 earnings call, and in their press release announcing opening weekend sales of the iPhone 5 in China. The claim was, no doubt, meant to impress investors, press and the general public, but I was curious as to how fast it really was compared to previous iPhone rollouts. So I decided to track down the launch schedules of all the iPhones to date and then again with the iPad. In the end I found a few trends, some oddities and that Apple’s claim was (mostly) true.
iPhone 5 will be available in more than 100 countries by the end of December, making it the fastest iPhone rollout ever.
Apple has just announced that they’ve sold over two million iPhone 5s in China since it launched three days ago on Friday, December 14th. That compares to the more than five million that were sold in the first weekend of the iPhone 5′s availability back in October (where it was available in nine countries).
“Customer response to iPhone 5 in China has been incredible, setting a new record with the best first weekend sales ever in China,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “China is a very important market for us and customers there cannot wait to get their hands on Apple products.”
Apple has also re-iterated that the iPhone 5 will be available in more than 100 countries by the end of December, which Apple says will be “the fastest iPhone rollout ever”.
Apple opened its first retail stores on May 19, 2001 – one in Virginia and the other in California. In the Steve Jobs biography, author Walter Isaacson wrote how Jobs had wanted Apple to have its own stores so that their iMacs didn’t have to “sit on a shelf between a Dell and a Compaq while an uninformed clerk recited the specs of each”. Despite initial criticisms and comparisons to Gateway’s failed retail stores, Apple Stores not only continue to exist today, but are regarded as one of Apple’s greatest innovations - one that now contributes to more than 10% of Apple’s revenue.
“Unless we could find ways to get our message to customers at the store, we were screwed.”
I’ve previously written about the coverage of Apple’s entertainment services in international markets (including how they compare to Google, Microsoft and Amazon), so I was similarly intrigued by how Apple’s stores have expanded into countries outside the US. Whilst researching all this, I came across other questions such as whether Apple had a particular preference for when they opened new stores and how the expansion of their retail network would affect visitors and profits. What I have found isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but there are certainly some trends and fascinating tidbits that I’ve come across, all of which is detailed below the break.
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Tim Cook Speaks With Businessweek In A Wide-Ranging Interview
Josh Tyrangiel of Bloomberg’s Businessweek has a terrific and in-depth interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook. In it, Cook is asked a whole swathe of questions from transparency, to the recent executive changes, Apple’s competition, US manufacturing and a lot more. The whole article is available online and in the latest edition of Businessweek. NBC will also air an interview with Tim Cook today on it’s Rock Center program at 10pm/9c in the US.
Talking of Apple Maps, Cook is asked whether Apple took on an approach of doing something for strategic company purposes, rather than something that would make the product better. Cook rebuffs this suggestion and suggests that they wanted to enable certain features such as directions and voice integration and set upon accomplishing them.
We set on a course some years ago and began to do that. So it wasn’t a matter of saying, “Strategically it’s important that we not work with company X.” We set out to give the customer something to provide a better experience. And the truth is it didn’t live up to our expectations. We screwed up.
Asked about manufacturing and whether Apple might bring back some manufacturing efforts back to the US, Cook responds that they will begin to do so in 2013 for certain Mac products. It lines up with recent reports of the new iMacs arriving with “Assembled in USA” engravings. You can also see an excerpt of the Rock Center interview here in which he discusses this transition back to the US.
And next year we are going to bring some production to the U.S. on the Mac. We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we were getting closer to it. It will happen in 2013. We’re really proud of it. We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it’s broader because we wanted to do something more substantial. So we’ll literally invest over $100 million. This doesn’t mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we’ll be working with people, and we’ll be investing our money
In mid-October, we published a story on the entertainment ecosystems of Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon – looking at to what degree their music, movie, TV, eBook and app stores were available in international markets. Apple on the whole seemed to have the best average availability – slightly losing to Microsoft for the app stores and Amazon dominating everyone in the eBook store.
I’ve decided to briefly revisit the topic today because the original post garnered quite a lot of discussion and feedback and because of two “events” that have since happened. Firstly, Apple yesterday announced an expansion of the iTunes Music Store into dozens of new countries (and Movie store in a few additional countries). Secondly, I have since found two pieces of data on which countries Xbox Music is available in (for some odd reason I cannot find any official Microsoft document detailing the countries it is available in). So below is an update to the Music and Movie diagrams and graphs.
Apple Testing Carrier LTE Networks Before Allowing iPhone Access
According to Telecoms.com, Apple has been running its own, independent, LTE tests before it allows carriers to offer the iPhone 5 as an LTE device. It’s somewhat of a reversal of how the carrier-handset maker relationship traditionally worked – where the carrier wouldn’t sell a device until the device was tested and met all the quality assurance requirements. Now Apple, infamous for their desire to control all ends of the user experience, is testing the carriers before it allows the iPhone access to their LTE networks.
Telecoms had initially heard of the tests in October but this week heard from an official Swisscom spokesperson that said “Apple only enables 4G access after testing their device on an operator’s live network”.
While extensive network testing of handsets has always been necessary, the focus has historically been on whether or not the handset functions on the network, with operators keen to protect their network assets and customer relationships against poor quality devices.
A handset vendor vetting networks on a technical basis before allowing its device to be used on them is a reversal of this situation, and one that Apple alone has the power to bring about.
Bengt Nordstrom, CEO of consultancy group NorthStream told Telecoms that he was “shocked” of hearing of the policy. Noting that it proved “who is running the industry” and that “Apple have put themselves in the driving seat; it’s really changing the game quite a lot.”
Apple has just announced that the new 21.5-inch iMac will be available for purchase online and in retail stores from this Friday, November 30th. The larger 27-inch iMac will be available for pre-order on Apple’s online store from Friday but it won’t ship until December.
Apple revealed the new look iMac at its iPad mini event back on October 23rd. The new design features a new tapered enclosure that is just 5mm thick at its thinnest point. Whilst on the hardware side, it includes a new Fusion Drive which combines the “performance of flash” and the “capacity of a hard drive” as well as a reengineered display and upgraded performance.
Redesigned from the inside out, the new iMac packs high performance technology into an aluminum and glass enclosure that measures just 5 mm thin at its edge and features a reengineered display that reduces reflection by 75 percent. The new iMac includes 8GB of 1600 MHz memory, a 1TB hard drive, third generation quad-core Intel Core i5 processors that can be upgraded to Core i7, and the latest NVIDIA GeForce graphics processors that deliver up to 60 percent faster performance.
Prices start from US$1,299 for the 21.5″ iMac with a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 and NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M. The 27″ iMac will start at US$1799 and contain a 2.9 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.6 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M. Apple has the full technical specs and prices up on its website.