Apple has sent out a second round of event invitations to media today – this time directed specifically at Chinese publications and journalists, for a follow-up event to their September 10 shindig at Apple Campus in Cupertino. The invites have the same graphic as the original, but will occur September 11 at 10 AM CST at Beijing’s World Trade Center. This marks the first time Apple has held a standalone event specifically for Chinese media.
Recently, Apple has been doing a lot more to bring special focus to its operations in China. The company has been seeking new hires in China, for instance, as recently discovered via a considerable crop of LinkedIn job postings, and there are also rumblings that Apple is looking to build an engineering and R&D center in Taiwan, which it counts as part of its Greater China market. Greater investment in a local presence could be due to setbacks Apple faced earlier in the year apparently orchestrated in part by the Chinese government’s media agencies, which have reason to prefer local tech companies over outside influence.
Some suggest that Apple’s decision to host a separate event in China regarding its upcoming iPhone refresh is about it wanting to reveal a new partner in China Mobile. The carrier, which is China’s largest, hasn’t yet officially offered the iPhone, but recent reports suggest that both Apple and China Mobile had been nearing an arrangement to offer the smartphone on the network with this coming hardware update. That would give Apple access to some 744 million potential new customers (or at least 147 million, if you’re limiting yourself only to China Mobile customers with 3G access).
That’s a big carrot to be sure, and reason enough for a separate celebration, but there’s more at stake here than just a new carrier partnership (big as that is alone). Apple saw its China business suffer a setback during the last quarter, which is a very good reason for renewed attention being paid to customers in Greater China. A unique event for Chinese media should arguably do a better job of addressing the needs and wants of Chinese consumers.
There’s also the iPhone 5C, Apple’s low-cost iPhone hardware, which is rumored to be making its first official appearance at the September event. As Romain Dillet has noted, if real, this is clearly a device aimed at markets beyond the U.S. border. How better to highlight its international appeal than with an international spotlight?
Chances are the event in China will share much more in common with the one in Cupertino beyond just the invite graphic, but it’s still very noteworthy that it’s happening at all. In the past, Apple has seemed content to let China grow as a market key to its business organically; now, it seems more interested in taking an active role in shaping that side of the business.