Lam Thuy Vo
In June, Apple announced that the iPhone's virtual personal assistant, Siri, had learned Chinese. The smartphone's operating system will feature Chinese search engine Baidu, plus popular video sites like Youku. Today the newest iPad arrives in China.
Apple is wooing Chinese customers for a reason. The Asia & Pacific region, including China, made the company about a third of its sales in its 2011 fiscal year, which ended September 30: $28 billion. Just three years ago, only 14% of the company's sales came from the region. (Sales figures exclude Apple's retail operations, which are reported separately, combining all regions.)
Apple is scheduled to announce its latest financial results today, and investors are likely to be watching the numbers for Asia closely. Sales in that region have already overtaken sales in Europe, and are closing in on sales in North and South America as well.
The rapid growth in sales from the Asia & Pacific region has closely tracked Apple's initiatives in the region, more than doubling every year since 2009. That has dwarfed the growth of Apple's biggest regional market, the Americas.
Apple products remain very much a luxury item in China. An iPad sells for 2988 RMB on Apple's Chinese website, or about $469. That's roughly 43 percent of China's officially reported annual per-capita income for rural residents of 6,977 RMB, or 12 percent of the official 23,979 RMB per-capita income for urban residents.