Apple CEO Tim Cook was spotted in China yesterday, and now his plans are slowly leaking out.
"Tim is in China meeting with government officials," an Apple spokesperson told Reuters in a statement published today. "China is very important to us and we look forward to even greater investment and growth there."
Cook was photographed in the Joy City Apple Store in Beijing yesterday, looking over his company's products and talking with employees. He didn't say what he had planned for his stay in China, but several rumors cropped up suggesting he is meeting with his company's carrier partners, China Unicom and China Telecom, to discuss the next iPhone.
Cook said last year that China is now Apple's second most important market, behind the U.S. The issue, however, is that it's facing some barriers in China that could hold back its efforts to dominate there.
Chief among those barriers is Proview, a company arguing that Apple is illegally using the iPad name. Although Apple has said that Proview's claims are inaccurate, the company has watched its iPad get whisked off some store shelves in the country. In courts in other Chinese cities, judges have ordered the iPad to remain available. That mixed bag of results has only steeled Proview's resolve, potentially leaving Apple and Cook to find some ways around it.
Luckily for Apple, Cook might have the trump card: the iPhone. Apple is a major contributor to China's economy, contracting with dozens of facilities across the country to produce its many products. What's more, Apple is driving consumer sales across the country, buoying its economy.
To illustrate Apple's importance to China, we need only to look at its case with Proview. Despite all of its efforts to ban the iPad across China, Proview made it clear to Reuters last month that government officials would not allow it.
"The customs have told us that it will be difficult to implement a ban because many Chinese consumers love Apple products," Proview Chief Executive Yang Long-san told Reuters. "The sheer size of the market is very big. We have applied to some local customs for the ban and they'll report to the headquarters in Beijing."
Cook isn't just there to discuss business with government officials, The Wall Street Journal reported (subscription required). The publication said that he was "spotted" in Beijing at China Mobile's offices. If that's true, Cook might have been trying to finally get that company to carry the iPhone. China Mobile, with more than 660 million subscribers, is widely considered the key to increasing iPhone adoption across the country.
Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment on Cook's reported trip to China Mobile offices.