Apple CEO Tim Cook is currently visiting China. According to Reuters, he used this opportunity to announce that the company would build a new research & development center in China before the end of the year.
Other than that, we don’t know much. It’s unclear what engineers in China will work on, but it’s safe to say that they might be better positioned to work on Chinese standards, such as weird wireless technology standards. The team would be well-located to work on hardware projects as well.
This news comes a couple of months after a Beijing court had some issues with the iPhone 6’s design, saying that it looks too similar to other Chinese phones. At the same time, sales have been slowing down dramatically in China. While China is still a major market for Apple, slowing economic growth combined with increased competition with Chinese OEMs are warning signs for Apple.
Following today’s announcement of a new R&D center, Apple will have a foot on the ground in China and will also tap into new talent. Many great electronics engineers are now based in Shenzhen.
This isn’t the first R&D center outside of the U.S. for Apple. The company also has teams in France, Israel, the U.K., Japan and Sweden.
Apple hasn’t talked about the size of this new R&D center. It could end up being a small team given Apple’s size, but a sign of goodwill for the Chinese government.